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Everton at Watford: The Opposition View

We spoke to writer and Hornets fan Adam Drury prior to Saturday’s clash at Vicarage Road

Everton FC v Watford FC - Carabao Cup Round of 16
Everton have already beaten Watford twice this season
Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Everton will look to make it three wins out of three against Watford this season when they visit Vicarage Road in the Premier League on Saturday.

The Blues won the reverse fixture 1-0 in August, before knocking the Hornets out of the Carabao Cup in October with a 2-0 win at Goodison Park.

Watford sit 19th in the table, but have enjoyed a revival under Nigel Pearson, their third manager of the season, since his appointment in early December.

Their momentum took a hit last time out in the league with a last-gasp 2-1 defeat at relegation rivals Aston Villa, but they have not lost at home since late November.

Ahead of Saturday’s match, we spoke to sports writer for Betway and Hornets fan, Adam Drury:

RBM: Firstly, what has Nigel Pearson changed about Watford that has seen their form improve dramatically?

Adam: The main thing is confidence. The players looked dispirited and frustrated by Quique Sánchez Flores’ negative outlook and system, but they were always good enough to turn things around with a kick up the backside.

Pearson is a motivator and fantastic man-manager, which has inspired lots of them to rediscover their best form.

Tranmere Rovers v Watford FC - FA Cup Third Round: Replay
Watford have improved hugely under Pearson
Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

RBM: Despite their loss at Aston Villa pushing them back into the relegation zone, how confident are you that Watford can beat the drop?

Adam: The trajectory is still good, so we’re right to be hopeful.

There’s no denying that the defeat at Villa was a big blow, but we’re back in contention, and with several key players - Gerard Deulofeu, Étienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucouré - looking the strongest that they have all season, things are still looking upward.

The fitness of Ismaïla Sarr will have a big say.

RBM: Pearson seems to have changed former Everton target, Abdoulaye Doucouré, from a box-to-box midfielder to almost a number ten. How has he fared in this role?

Adam: This tactical switch has been vital in Watford’s improvement.

Wedon’t have too many creative central players, particularly with Roberto Pereyra out of form. That means that several goals have been created via Doucouré’s pressing and energy in the final third.

He is virtually playing as a second striker, so don’t expect your central defenders and sitting midfielder to have much time on the ball.

Aston Villa v Watford - Premier League - Villa Park
Doucouré has been deployed further forward under Pearsoon
Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images

RBM: Former Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu struggled to maintain his form and fitness at Goodison Park. Has he managed to iron these issues out during his spell at Watford?

Adam: I’m a huge Deulofeu fan - he’s probably the most talented player I’ve ever seen play for Watford.

He’s more consistent than he gets credit for, too. He can frustrate but he is regularly our most creative player, and you always feel like you have a chance with him on the field. Fitness-wise he’s been fine, which is crucial with Sarr out.

RBM: Having played both out wide and up front for Watford, where do you think Deulofeu’s best position is?

Adam: I prefer him either central or on the left, where he can naturally come inside anyway. As I mentioned above, there isn’t an awful lot of creativity in the team, so he needs to be more involved than he would be out on the right.

He’s hit a nice groove in this left-wing position at the moment, but I’d say he’s been at his best when through the middle.

Watford FC v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
Deulofeu is likely to face his former club on Saturday
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

RBM: Richarlison is arguably Everton’s best and most important player now. Given how his form tailed off in his season at Watford two years ago (particularly after Marco Silva’s sacking), have you been surprised by how well he has done at Everton?

Adam: Not really, we saw glimpses of what he is now producing consistently when he was first at Watford. He was always willing, and never lacked physicality, but he just needed to add some consistency and not let his head drop when things went wrong.

He’s going to score a lot of goals for somebody - whether it be Everton or Barcelona.

RBM: How do you expect Watford to set up on Saturday?

Adam: I expect the 4-3-3 system, with Doucouré as the number ten behind Troy Deeney, to continue. Ignacio Pussetto will probably make his full debut on the right, with Deulofeu coming in off the left.

Watford FC v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
Pussetto joined Watford from Udinese in January
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

RBM: Who do you think could cause Everton the most problems?

Adam: Deulofeu and Doucouré are the danger men. If the former is at his mercurial best, and the latter harrying and hassling, then we should create enough chances to score a goal or two.

As mentioned, Sarr is a big miss. Deeney is looking sharp in front of goal, so we just need the supply line to be at it.

RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday’s game?

Adam: I think Watford can nick this one 1-0. I’m not completely convinced by Ancelotti’s Everton, particularly away, and we’ve been excellent defensively at home.

Our thanks to Adam for his time.