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Everton at Watford match preview | Time to bounce back from that dismal Newcastle collapse

We have all had over a week to get that result out of our system, now it’s time to move on

Everton FC v Watford FC - Carabao Cup Round of 16 Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

After those chaotic final two minutes against Newcastle, some time apart probably did everyone some good.

Enough has been said about what happened, but it goes without saying that it was totally in keeping with what we have witnessed from this team over the past few years and why there is plenty of work to be done on this squad.

FBL-ENG-PR-EVERTON-NEWCASTLE Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

The calmest man in wake of the collapse was Carlo Ancelotti. The canny Italian chose not to lay into his players, in public at least, knowing that for 92 minutes the team had turned out arguably their best performance of the season.

He’s been around too long to get over-emotional, even if the rest of us were in a state of rage, and his measured reaction helped draw the sting out of what potentially could have been an explosive situation.

It is why, at the time of writing, the club are not panicking by bringing in any last-minute deals before the January deadline.

Ancelotti is here for the long term and has instead used the extended break since the Newcastle game (courtesy of that FA Cup defeat) to work with his players at Finch Farm.

It is the first time he has really had any proper time to work with the players away from match preparation or recovery, so it will be interesting to see if we notice any tactical tweaks on the field.

The Premier League is incredibly tight this season, with just four points separating Manchester United in fifth and Newcastle in 14th.

As a result there is still plenty to play for between now and the end of the season, with a European place the prize for any side that can string some consistent results together, something Everton have so far struggled to do.

The opposition

AFC Bournemouth v Watford FC - Premier League Photo by Robin Jones - AFC Bournemouth/AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images

Everton’s third meeting with Watford this season also sees them face a third different manager, with Nigel Pearson now in the dugout following the dismissals of Javi Gracia and Quique Sanchez Flores.

When Pearson took over at the start of December the Hornets were six points adrift at the bottom of the table. After losing his first game in charge at Liverpool Pearson then saw his side collect 14 points from 18 available to climb out of the bottom three, with only Manchester City and Liverpool picking up more points in that time.

A last-gasp defeat at Aston Villa last time out saw the club drop back into the relegation zone on goal difference, but that fine run has given them a fighting chance of survival when all hope looked lost.

Previous meeting

Everton 2-0 Watford, Carabao Cup fourth round, October 29, 2019 (match report)

Everton FC v Watford FC - Carabao Cup Round of 16 Photo by Emma Simpson - Everton FC/Everton FC via Getty Images

Second half goals from Mason Holgate - first first for the club - and Richarlison sealed Everton’s place in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals.

Recent form

Everton

Newcastle (H) Drew 2-2

West Ham (A) Drew 1-1

Brighton (H) Won 1-0

Liverpool (A - FA Cup) Lost 1-0

Man City (A) Lost 2-1

Watford

Tranmere (A- FA Cup third round replay) Lost 2-1

Aston Villa (A) Lost 2-1

Tottenham (H) Drew 0-0

Bournemouth (A) Won 3-0

Tranmere (H - FA Cup third round) Drew 3-3

Team news

Everton have been boosted by the return to fitness of Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Alex Iwobi, the latter of whom has yet to feature at all under Carlo Ancelotti after a month out with a hamstring injury.

Andre Gomes is, remarkably, back in training and could make a return to action against Arsenal in three week’s time. Jean-Philippe Gbamin though is likely to require more surgery on a thigh injury and could miss the rest of the season.

What they said

Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti: “The manager has done really well. A few months ago they were relegated but now they are there fighting. This is a really difficult team to play against.

“We have to be ready, prepared and, as I said, we have more possibility to win if we play well. The easiest way to score is a counter-attack. But, you want to have a control of the game, possession has to be efficient.”

Tranmere Rovers v Watford FC - FA Cup Third Round: Replay Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

Watford head coach Nigel Pearson: “When you have one or two setbacks, you have to make sure you are very even with your mood and you are able to prepare and look at games in the same way. We’ve had a decent run of games and had a couple of setbacks recently but, generally speaking, I am very pleased with the application of the players.

“We have to recognise we have a long way to go. There are a number of teams involved in the relegation battle and we have to make sure we take care of ourselves and not worry about what others are doing.”

Final word

if Everton play like they did for 90 minutes against Newcastle then they have a real chance here. Frustratingly, this team still seems to struggle to perform consistently both between games and within matches. Watford’s resurgence under Nigel Pearson is impressive and given that form they will be expecting to take something from this clash. My hunch? Another score draw.