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Can refreshed Everton revive their season at Watford?

After a two-week break, including a warm-weather training camp, the Toffees will have few excuses if they don’t perform at Vicarage Road

Everton v Watford - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Everton enter the final third of the season with little to play for in terms of silverware, but plenty of prove ahead of what could be yet another busy summer.

The second two-week break of 2018, courtesy of Everton’s early FA Cup exit, has stifled any momentum gained from the 3-1 win over Crystal Palace.

However, the muted reaction to that game from the fans suggested a break was welcome.

There is an obvious disconnect between the club and the supporters at present, with plenty of the fanbase just wanting the season to end.

As a result, the chance to enjoy an Everton-free weekend, absent of any pre or post-match fume, was most welcome.

Sam Allardyce also made the most of the break by taking the squad out to Dubai for a warm-weather training camp.

I’m not one to moan about players heading off to sunny destinations mid-season. Yes, the only reason they had time to go was because of their cup defeat, but forcing them to stay at Finch Farm as some sort of punishment doesn’t make much sense either.

Those arguing they are being “rewarded for failure” neglect the fact they still pick up thousands of pounds a week regardless of results.

The chance for the squad, particularly the injured players, to train at first-class facilities in warm weather is just another perk of the modern game.

The best way to end any criticism of their mid-season jaunt of course is to pick up results upon their return.

With just six points needed to reach 40 points and all but secure safety, the Toffees’ ambitions should be higher than simply staying up.

Seventh place - and a potential spot in Europe - is still a realistic target, even if that is reflection on the weakness of the division as a whole.

If Everton can pick up some quick results and get to 40 points, it will lay down a platform for a run of pressure-free games until the end of the season.

Then maybe, just maybe, we can take something positive and tangible from what has been a pretty traumatic few months.

The opposition

No Watford preview would be complete without mentioning Marco Silva.

Everton’s flirtation with the Portuguese earlier this season adds an interesting sub-plot to Saturday’s meeting, with the Hornets publicly blaming the Toffees for sabotaging their campaign.

It can’t be denied that Everton’s interest in Silva coincided with Watford’s dip in form. When Ronald Koeman was sacked at the end of October, Watford were fifth in the table after losing just their second league game of the season at Chelsea the previous weekend.

By the time Silva was sacked in January, Watford were 10th and just five points above the relegation zone having lost 10 out of 15 league games.

However, Everton’s interest in Silva was seemingly encouraged by the Portuguese himself, who reportedly held meetings with the Watford hierarchy requesting permission to speak to Farhad Moshiri.

Silva had also reportedly spoken to some of his Watford players, whom he wanted to take with him to Goodison Park.

He had plenty of opportunity to end the speculation but chose not to, significantly contributing to his own downfall

Not that Watford see it that way. Their strongly worded statement upon Silva’s sacking left in no doubt who they blamed for their dip in form.

Everton v Hull City - Premier League Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images

It will certainly add spice to the fixture and I imagine any goals for Watford will be celebrated that little bit more than usual in the Watford boardroom.

Despite all that upheaval (managerial changes are hardly new at Vicarage Road) Watford find themselves 11th in the table and can move to within a point of Everton with a victory on Saturday.

Silva’s replacement, Javi Gracia, has made a mixed start to life in England, winning one, drawing one and losing two of his four games in charge.

The highlight is undoubtedly that 4-1 thrashing of champions Chelsea, though a 2-0 defeat at West Ham dragged them back down to earth five days later.

Another sub-ploT thrown into the mix is a reunion with Gerard Deulofeu. The Spaniard’s ability has never been questioned, but his lack of consistency and fitness led to his departure from Goodison Park.

When he is on his game though, Deulofeu is a genuine threat. Don’t be surprised if he comes back to haunt the Toffees on Saturday.

Team news

Leighton Baines is in contention to make his first appearance since the end of November after recovering from a calf problem.

Seamus Coleman is likely to miss out though with a muscle injury suffered against Crystal Palace. Eliaquim Mangala is also out with a knee problem while Ramiro Funes Mori isn’t yet ready to return despite resuming training.

Predicted starting XI

Final word

The reverse meeting back in November was one of the most tense, stressful matches I have endured in a long time.

The Toffees were in dire straits going into the game and defeat would have sparked a full blown crisis.

The eventual 3-2 win has arguably had greater consequences for Watford than Everton, even if both sides look set to finish mid-table.

Despite their relatively comfortable positions, the fallout from the Marco Silva saga is likely to fire up Watford and could well be the decisive factor against an Everton side who remain pretty hopeless away from Goodison Park.

Don’t get your hopes up for this one.