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Friday, July 17, 2020

West Ham v Watford: Expect goals in crunch clash

West Ham v Watford: Expect goals in crunch clash

West Ham and Watford meet in a crunch Premier League relegation clash on Friday night and with great rewards on offer to the winner, Andy Schooler expects goals...

West Ham v Watford
Friday July 17, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports Premier League & Main Event
Fans of both West Ham and Watford would have enjoyed Saturday night after crucial wins for their teams.
Sunday: not so much.
Having established what looked a potentially-decisive gap between themselves and the bottom three, the Hammers and Hornets then saw both Aston Villa and Bournemouth win and turn the heat right back up.
It is highly unlikely either side will head into this game in the relegation zone (this preview is being written prior to both Wednesday and Thursday's matches) but a worst-case scenario would see them ahead of Bournemouth only on goal difference and just one point ahead of Villa.
Alternatively, if both the Cherries and Villa lose their 'week 36' matches, then the winners at the London Stadium on Friday will virtually guarantee their safety.
The various potential scenarios make previewing the contest with any great certainty difficult but what we do know is that victory will carry great rewards.

Hammers start favourites

Fresh from their 4-0 demolition of Norwich - Michail Antonio scoring all four goals - West Ham start favourites to win the game at 2.42.
Given they've rediscovered their goal touch, you can see why.
They ended their win drought with a 3-2 victory at home to Chelsea and have also claimed a 2-2 draw at Newcastle in the last fortnight, meaning they've taken seven points from the last 12 on offer.
Antonio's six goals in those four games as centre forward have been key and he'll again be a man to watch.

Hornets on a high

Yet Watford - 3.50 for the win - also come into the game on a good run having won 2-1 at home to both Newcastle and Norwich in their last two outings.
Danny Welbeck's recall has proved a shrewd move by Nigel Pearson. The former England man has added something extra to an attack which has struggled this season, particularly on the road.
On the opposite side of the pitch, Ismaila Sarr remains inconsistent but when he's on his game - as he was against Newcastle last weekend - then he's a difficult customer for left-backs. Aaron Cresswell beware.
As suggested, it is these away games which are threatening to be Watford's downfall. They've failed to score in their last four on their travels.

Situation suggests goals

However, I'd expect them to find the net here.
Needs must and confidence is on the up after those back-to-back wins.
West Ham's defence has been far from watertight - only Norwich and Southampton have conceded more home goals than their 31 - and the Hornets have definitely looked more threatening in recent games.
The Hammers' attack also looks on an upward curve - the fact that Sebastien Haller is fit again but can't get back in the starting XI says much.
These upticks make over 2.5 goals of some appeal at 2.16.
The 17 games at the London Stadium this season have seen 57 goals (well over 3 per game) with over 2.5 landing in 10 of them. The reverse fixture also saw four goals.

Trading potential

The stats regarding Watford's away games are not so convincing - just 35% of them have landed this bet - but the importance of victory has rarely been greater and they arrive in a buoyant mood.
Even if results have gone the Hornets' way and a draw might arguably be considered a decent result, it's hard to see Pearson seeing it as such.
After this, Watford host Manchester City and then head to Arsenal on the final day. He'll consider this by far his side's best chance of a win across the run-in. They won't sit back.
Given plenty is guaranteed to be at stake, there may well be good chances to trade on the exchange - Watford will surely have to go for it if trailing in the second half given their remaining fixtures. There's definitely potential for late goals. In-play, keep an eye on those goal lines.

Soucek's star to shine

Something else - or rather someone - to look out for is West Ham midfielder Tomas Soucek.
The Czech loan signing has really caught the eye since the season resumed with his box-to-box pitch coverage.
It is the attacking side of his game I'm focusing on. The Czech international has been getting into some good positions of late, both from open play and set-pieces where he is a big aerial threat.
It is from those set-plays that he has scored two goals in his last four games but his shot stats show he's no one-trick pony.
Soucek has fired off 15 shots in those four games. He's had at least two shots (4/11 here) in each of those matches and has always hit the target with at least one (8/13).
In goalscoring terms, Soucek has potential in the anytime scorer market at 10/3.
Prior to his January arrival, Soucek scored eight in 17 appearances for Slavia Prague in the Czech league, as well as two in the Champions League group stage.
West Ham have scored 13 times from set-piece situations, putting them fourth in that particular list, while Watford sit joint sixth in the set-play concession table.
Soucek therefore looks well placed to capitalise from free-kicks and corners, while his ability to get shots off around the box adds to his goal threat.

Opta fact

Watford have won their last two Premier League games, despite conceding the first goal both times. Only four teams have ever won 3+ Premier League games in a row despite conceding first - Arsenal (4 in March 2012), Manchester United (3 in January 2003), Newcastle (3 in December 2001) and Leeds (3 in November 1997).