The Build Up: Middlesbrough vs Watford
Boro host the high-flying Watford, as the two sides meet in the Championship for the first time since 2015, in front of the Sky cameras.
Boro started their Easter weekend with a 3-1 defeat at the expense of Bournemouth, with Neil Warnock all but admitting defeat in the hunt for the Play-Offs. However, Warnock was optimistic of the long-term future of the squad, after deeming that his side showed real glimpses of quality. Boro’s manager will be hoping to see some of the optimism reflected in Monday’s match-up against the in-form Hornets.
After saying that he wanted to ‘give it a go’, Warnock lined up with a fluid 442 system, which we could see more of for the remainder of the season. Despite Duncan Watmore’s wonderfully taken goal, Boro’s striker for the day struggled to make a real impact throughout the game, with Boro lacking a physical presence upfront. That may be something which Warnock will consider, with Akpom and Fletcher desperate to make an impact in Boro’s final seven games.
It’s been a busy schedule for Paddy McNair and Warnock admitted to him being very tired for Friday’s defeat. However, with injuries to Dael Fry and Anfernee Dijksteel and a lack of options at his disposal, Warnock’s hands may be tied and McNair may be needed to start once again.
In addition to the absence of Fry, Boro were without Marcus Tavernier for the trip to Bournemouth, and the pair of academy graduates will continue to miss the next “two to three weeks”, carrying on an injury-hit past few months.
Watford have found themselves right in the fold for the automatic promotion places. Since swapping manager and opting for Xisco, the Hornets have won 14 of the 19 games under the Spaniard’s guidance. Winning six in a row, and 10 of their last 11, has really bolstered their chances of an instant return to the Premier League, finding themselves sitting comfortably in second place.
The Hornets possess real quality in their ranks with a mixture of youth and experience. Speed demon Ismaila Sarr and the tricky Joao Pedro have proven to be real handfuls for Championship defenders this term, which Boro found out on the opening day of the season regarding Pedro. The pair top Watford’s scoring charts, each with 9 goals.
Ex-Boro man Nathaniel Chalobah is into this fourth season as a permanent Watford player and has proven to be a key man for the Hornets in the middle of the park.
Easter Monday’s fixtures are the reversed fixtures from the opening weekend of the season. Thus, the two sides met on a Friday night to start the 2020/21 Championship season. It was Watford who came out on top, with defender Craig Cathcart scoring the only goal of the game to give Watford a winning return to the Championship. Boro had their chances but ultimately failed to test Ben Foster in the Watford goal.
Watford are one of the few teams in the division that boast the better head-to-head record between the two sides. This is largely down to the recent results, of which Boro have failed to beat Watford in their last eight attempts.
Boro wins: 14
Watford wins: 17