Referee: Jon Moss
Another summer of sweeping changes at Watford has left the club in a precarious position as they welcome Chelsea to Vicarage Road.
Walter Mazzarri has an excellent track record, but he will have to hit the ground running to avoid the sack before the season is out. As Watford’s eighth manager in four years, Mazzarri knows that surviving relegation will not necessarily be good enough to keep his job.
Their 1-1 draw with Southampton on the opening day was a decent start for the Italian, although the Hornets may rue missing a rare opportunity to earn three points; after facing Chelsea, Watford play Arsenal, West Ham, and Manchester United.
Chelsea will sense this nervousness and enter the match in good spirits following their victory over the Hammers at Stamford Bridge.
Antonio Conte’s aggressive, passionate approach seems to have already rubbed off on his new players. Diego Costa was very fortunate not to be sent off, while his winning goal – sparking wild celebrations from Conte – suggested Chelsea will play with great determination this season.
Watford held the Blues to a 0-0 draw when the sides last met in February, but that was at a time when both Costa and Eden Hazard were in dreadful form. These two were excellent against West Ham and promise to cause Heurelho Gomes plenty more problems this time around.
Those backing Watford to pull off a big upset will get paid out at 15/4, but it seems considerably more likely that Chelsea will win, at 13/18. The draw is priced at 5/2.
The hosts’ task is made even more difficult by the fact that two of their four new signings are out injured. Isaac Success is not expected to return from a muscle strain in time to face the Blues, while Brice Dja Djedje is a month away from first-team action.
Chelsea only have Kurt Zouma unavailable for this one, which could lead to an unchanged line-up for Conte. However, N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic did not link up particularly well on the opening day, which could hand Cesc Fabregas the opportunity to stake his claim for a starting place.
A more attacking system would surely be favourable for the visitors, who should be able to pick up from where they left off and ruin Mazzarri’s home debut.
Watford have failed to beat Chelsea in any of their last 10 attempts, most recently beating them in 1999. Few anticipate this run ending now. Expect plenty of goals as Watford’s unfamiliar three-man defence struggles to contend with a re-energised Chelsea.
Recommended Bet: over 2.5 goals @ 1/1