Southampton will be looking for a reaction to their disappointing 2-0 defeat to Arsenal with an improved performance and result when they visit Watford on Sunday afternoon.
The Saints fancied their chances going into Thursday’s meeting with the Gunners at St Mary’s but were forced to leave empty handed after gifting the visitors both of their goals.
That result left Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side in 14th place in the Premier League, nine points and two places above this weekend’s opponents who are still firmly in relegation trouble.
Southampton will have to contend with a Watford side who have a lot more to play for in the remaining seven games of the season as Nigel Pearson’s side sit just one point above the bottom three.
Saints’ line up on Thursday was unchanged from their 3-0 triumph at Norwich last Friday but the manager will be forced to make alterations this time around.
Jack Stephens’ red card will see him join Moussa Djenepo on the suspension list while Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (who limped off on Thursday) and Sofiane Boufal are both doubts.
Here’s how we predict the side to line up:
GK: Alex McCarthy
Hasenhuttl has a big decision to make this weekend when it comes to who he will choose to start in goal.
McCarthy replaced Angus Gunn earlier in the season due to the latter struggling for form, however, it is now McCarthy who is under pressure following a couple of howlers on Thursday.
It could go either way but we predict the manager, who said that he didn’t want to “kill” either goalkeeper at the moment, to keep faith in McCarthy who has largely been solid since coming into the side last October.
RB: Kyle Walker-Peters
Both right-backs had a half apiece on Thursday with the side immediately looking more solid after Walker-Peters’ introduction at half-time.
Yan Valery has struggled in both games since the restart and Hasenhuttl has indicated that he will give Walker-Peters more chances to prove that he deserves to stay beyond his current loan agreement.
CB: Jan Bednarek
With Stephens suspended, Bednarek is likely to be even more important in securing a result at Vicarage Road.
He’s a certainty to start.
CB: Jannik Vestergaard
The vacant centre-back position is likely to be filled by either Jannik Vestergaard or Kevin Danso.
Given that Danso wasn’t even on the bench at St Mary’s and seems to be out of favour, Vestergaard appears to be the obvious choice to partner Bednarek.
LB: Ryan Bertrand
Bertrand was one of Southampton’s best players on the pitch against Arsenal, both defensively and offensively.
We predict another start for the 30-year old.
CM: Will Smallbone
This is a tough one.
Ex-skipper Hojbjerg limped off against Arsenal and is likely to be a doubt for the trip to Hertfordshire, this leaves a space for someone to showcase why they deserve to replace him permanently should he leave this summer.
For that reason, we’ve gone for Smallbone as Hasenhuttl may see these final seven games as an opportunity to give chances to players who haven’t featured too often for the Saints with the aim of looking long-term.
However, we also wouldn’t be surprised to see Oriol Romeu lining up at Vicarage Road to give more of a physical presence.
CM: James Ward-Prowse
This is a much easier one.
When fit, Ward-Prowse is a guarantee to start – especially since being named as the temporary captain.
RW: Stuart Armstrong
Moussa Djenepo’s suspension and Sofiane Boufal’s knock means that it’s unlikely that the two attacking midfield players will change.
This will give Armstrong the chance to get back to the sort of performance we saw at Norwich as opposed to the Arsenal showing.
LW: Nathan Redmond
Redmond’s influence on Thursday was much lower than he would’ve liked and he is another who will be hoping for a more creative performance.
We predict another start.
ST: Shane Long
Long wasn’t fit to start either of the games so far since the restart but he did come on for Michael Obafemi at half-time against Arsenal.
Obafemi didn’t do enough to prove why he should keep his place now that Long seems to be fully fit so we anticipate the reliable partnership of Long and Ings to be reunited.
ST: Danny Ings
Ings was having to feed off scraps at St Mary’s and despite a couple of nice moments, he failed to trouble Emiliano Martinez.
However, unless Hasenhuttl feels that he needs to rest lots of players, Ings will lead the line again.