Watford v Crystal Palace: Premier League preview
The Premier League’s Boxing Day action kicks off at Watford with the visit of Crystal Palace.
The match will be Sam Allardyce’s first game in charge after he was named as Alan Pardew’s successor on Friday.
After one win in 11, Palace hover dangerously above the relegation zone, a point above 18th-placed Sunderland.
Big Sam will be looking for defensive improvements
Big Sam’s first call of duty will be to shore up the Palace defence. Only Swansea and Hull have conceded more goals than the 32 Palace have already let in this season.
There’s no problem at the other end of the field. Surprisingly, the only teams in the league to have scored more than Crystal Palace this season are those in the top five.
The Eagles suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat against Chelsea in Pardew’s final game in charge.
Watford also lost last weekend. Walter Mazzarri’s side were defeated 1-0 at Sunderland.
Despite one win in their last five, a win for Watford would propel them up to 8th in the table – at least temporarily.
Ben Watson is expected to return to the Watford squad after missing the defeat at Sunderland due to personal reasons.
Craig Cathcart is set for a place on the bench following his return to the squad.
Argentine midfielder Roberto Pereyra “will be out for some months, for sure” (according to Mazzarri) following his knee surgery in Barcelona earlier this week.
Mazzarri confirmed “there is a chance” that Isaac Success could start, but that staff “are still evaluating the player.”
Watford also hope to include Stefano Okaka, who missed the last two matches due to a hamstring problem.
Okaka and defender Sebastian Prodl have both trained ahead of the match, but not with the main group.
Allardyce is likely to have Mathieu Flamini available after a groin strain.
The game will come too soon for the likes of James Tomkins, Bakary Sako, Loic Remy and Steve Mandanda, who are all targeting January returns.
Watford predicted line-up
Crystal Palace predicted line-up
101 Great Goals prediction
Watford 2-1 Crystal Palace