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Everton at Watford: Match Preview | Toffees seek third straight win to boost survival hopes

The Blues can move four points clear of the drop zone with a win

Everton v Watford - Premier League Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

The Frank Lampard salvage operation is in full swing as Everton chase a third successive win that would lift them four points clear of the relegation zone.

Sunday’s battling 2-1 victory at Leicester made it back-to-back wins for the first time since September and was their first three points on the road since August, a reminder of just how grim this season has been.

Witnessing defeat after defeat on the road has been those long-suffering travelling supporters, who finally had something to cheer at the King Power.

Leicester City v Everton - Premier League Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Leicester City v Everton - Premier League - King Power Stadium Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images

And boy did they cheer. I don’t think I have heard an away section as loud as that one on Sunday. The Toffees fans never stopped throughout that 90 minutes or even once the rest of the stadium was empty at full time.

The way the fanbase, so horribly fractured a few months ago, has come together is wonderful to see and shows the power supporters can have on the team.

Credit of course also has to go to Lampard and the players – they have risen to the occasion over the last month to give themselves a chance of survival when all hope looked lost on that grim night at Turf Moor.

There is still work to be done however. They are still just a point clear of danger don’t forget.

The fans are once again ready to do their part, cheering off the coach at Finch Farm and by all accounts traveling down in huge numbers to Vicarage Road.

It is time to finish the job.

The opposition

Crystal Palace v Watford - Premier League Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images

What a disastrous season this has been for Watford.

A second Premier League relegation in three seasons was confirmed with defeat at Crystal Palace on Saturday as the Hornets threaten to become a yo-yo club.

They have gone through three managers this season, which is about par for the club’s owners, but neither Xiaso Munoz, Claudio Ranieri or Roy Hodgson have been able to arrest the slide back down to the Championship.

Hodgson has confirmed he will retire from management at the end of the campaign and looked to have all but given up as he serenaded the Palace crowd on what was his first return to Selhurst Park since stepping down last season.

Goalkeeper Ben Foster laid into his team-mates after the Palace game, saying some of them were only willing to put the effort in for 60-70 minutes. An extraordinary injury crisis is also set to rob them of more than 10 first-teamers on Wednesday.

If Everton do not grasp this opportunity then they deserve all they get.

Previous meeting

Everton 2-5 Watford, October 23 2021

Everton v Watford - Premier League Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

Was this where the Benitez rot really started to set in? The Toffees were 2-1 up with 15 minutes to go and set to go sixth in the table, but conceded four goals in an extraordinary late collapse, including a hat-trick for former Evertonian Josh King.

Team news

Leicester City v Everton - Premier League Photo by Tony McArdle - Everton FC/Everton FC via Getty Images

Lampard has confirmed Yerry Mina has suffered a calf problem and will unlikely to be fit until the final game of the season at the earliest.

Vitaliy Mykolenko is fit though after he was forced off against Leicester.

Donny van de Beek and Ben Godfrey again miss out but could return against Brentford.

What they said

Leicester City v Everton - Premier League Photo by Joe Prior/Visionhaus via Getty Images

Everton boss Frank Lampard: “The only message for us – although we enjoyed the weekend and it was a game that got us out of the relegation zone – is that it is very dangerous to relax.

“As much as we can talk about the fans and great atmosphere, for the players and staff, the only message is that we have to finish a tough job.

“We have to expect the worst elsewhere, everyone else [direct rivals Leeds United and Burnley] can win their games.

“We can control ourselves and there is no way we can relax. That is the biggest message.

“There is a good feeling in the group from winning back-to back games and in terms of confidence we are ready to go again.

“All the players need to do, is continue with the mindset they have at the moment.

“Every game in the Premier League is dangerous – especially away from home, we found that out for a while. It changed at Leicester, but the minute you think you’ve cracked it, you’ll struggle.

“To underestimate Watford would be our biggest danger.”

Crystal Palace v Watford - Premier League Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

Watford boss Roy Hodgson: “I think you appeal to their pride and sense of professionalism [as motivation].

“I thought that was very evident at the weekend, it was always going to be a tough game against a team that is doing well and we put on a very good show.

“I was hoping to play a similar team, but we’ve lost so many players that we find ourselves in the middle of an injury crisis. There’ll be an opportunity for some players to come in and make their case that perhaps I should have been picking them.

“The attitude in training has been fine, I can’t make any criticisms in that respect. We haven’t been unfortunate in our efforts to stay up. We’ve lost games in recent weeks without playing particularly badly, more by circumstance than a lack of effort, so I have no criticism of the squad.”

Final word

Lampard is right – we cannot afford to get ahead of ourselves. Those two wins have given Everton a platform for survival that is all, we have seen how quickly things can change at the bottom.

They do, however, have a wonderful opportunity against a demoralised and injury-hit opponent. If they match the effort and commitment we have seen over the past few weeks, they have a great chance.