Match Time: 6/28/2020 23:30 Sunday(GMT+8)
Watford welcome Southampton to Vicarage Road on Sunday knowing that victory would be a timely boost to their Premier League survival hopes. The Hornets currently sit just one point above the relegation zone following Thursday's defeat at Burnley, while Southampton need just one more win to reach the 40-point mark.
There is little doubt that Watford would have taken their current position if it was offered to them when Nigel Pearson took over, but their recent form will raise alarm bells heading into the most important spell of the season. Pearson earned 13 points from his first six games at the helm but has since taken just six more from the last nine outings, three of which came in a truly remarkable win over Liverpool. That result proved that the Hornets are capable of beating the very best on their day, but that day has come far too sporadically this season and Thursday's defeat at Burnley was another low point in their campaign. The positive news for Watford is that things remain in their hands; they are currently a point clear of West Ham United, Bournemouth and Aston Villa and still have fellow strugglers Norwich City and West Ham to face this season. However, they also have difficult matches against Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal to come - the latter two being the last two games of the season - and so more winnable fixtures like Sunday's naturally take on more importance. It is likely to be at home where they pick up the points needed to beat the drop, and they go into Sunday's contest with only one defeat in their last nine outings at Vicarage Road - including victories over top-six teams Manchester United, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Liverpool in that time.
The only home game back since lockdown ended in a respectable 1-1 draw with Leicester City too, but they welcome a Southampton side that has been away-day specialists in the Premier League this season. The Saints have picked up a league-high 62% of their points on their travels in 2019-20 and, while they have the worst home record in the entire division, only Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea, Leicester and Wolves have fared better away. Southampton's form since lockdown has offered a perfect microcosm of that - a comfortable and convincing 3-0 win at Norwich in their first game back before losing 2-0 to an Arsenal side in poor form themselves at home on Thursday night. An Alex McCarthy howler and Jack Stephens red card certainly did not help their cause against the Gunners, with McCarthy's being the 10th mistake leading directly to a goal that Southampton have committed this season - a league high. Despite that, the Saints look certain not to be dragged into the relegation battle with only three points needed to reach 40, and in truth their current tally of 37 is likely to be enough anyway.
Watford Premier League form: DLWLDL
Southampton Premier League form: LWLLWL
Nigel Pearson could look to make changes to his starting XI following the defeat to Burnley, with no new injury concerns to worry about. Gerard Deulofeu, Daryl Janmaat and Isaac Success all remain sidelined and will be out for the rest of the season, but the likes of Abdoulaye Doucoure and Craig Cathcart will be pushing for recalls. There is unlikely to be any change in goal, though, where Ben Foster will become just the 19th player - and the oldest ever - to start 100 consecutive Premier League games. Craig Dawson should also keep his place at centre-back; he made a goalline clearance against Burnley and, since the restart, has had more shots (four), shots on target (three) and touches in the opposition box (six) than any other Watford player. Dawson's main job on Sunday could be to keep Danny Ings out, though, with the Southampton striker having netted 16 times this season including eight in his last 10 away league games.
The visitors will be without Stephens following his red card, but Ralph Hasenhuttl has indicated that he will keep faith with McCarthy despite his error. Moussa Djenepo is also suspended as he serves the last of his three-match ban, while Southampton could also be without Sofiane Boufal and former captain Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, the latter of whom limped off against Arsenal.
Watford possible starting lineup: Foster; Femenia, Cathcart, Dawson, Masina; Sarr, Doucoure, Capoue, Pereyra; Deeney, Gray
Southampton possible starting lineup: McCarthy; Valery, Vestergaard, Bednarek, Bertrand; Armstrong, Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Redmond; Ings, Long
Watford VS Southampton
Handicap Pick: Watford -0.25