Match previews as the Premier League relegation battle intensifies with a relentless fixture schedule: it’s a must-win game for Norwich when they host West Ham, while Watford look to build on their 2-1 midweek victory against mid-table Newcastle.
Norwich vs West Ham: Win or bust for dwindling Canaries
Danny Welbeck’s sumptuous overhead kick strike sunk Norwich hearts on Tuesday, as they were ultimately second best again. It wasn’t for want of trying, either.
Daniel Farke’s men recorded more shots (12), possession (57%), big chances (2) and dribbles (16/27, 59% completion rate) over the 90 minutes against the Hornets.
Yet they came unstuck against a side who are level on points with their next opponents, David Moyes’ West Ham.
Their 1-0 home defeat by Burnley on Wednesday is sure to have stung the Hammers, though they were also safe knowing their relegation rivals also dropped points.
Jay Rodriguez ghosted past Aaron Cresswell and watched his headed strike crash in off the crossbar, reaffirming Burnley’s top-half position.
It was rather worrying that a moment of individual brilliance like that could hurt West Ham in such razor-sharp fashion, even though the defending itself wasn’t up to scratch.
Norwich, who possess some creative talents, are the league’s lowest-scorers this season (26 goals in 34 games).
They could welcome back highly-rated winger Todd Cantwell (hamstring) after the 22-year-old missed their most recent defeat in midweek.
Emiliano Buendia, their best player on Tuesday, is expected to feature again – while it’ll be interesting to see who drops out to accomodate the Englishman if passed fit to start.
From a neutral perspective, it’d be great to see Norwich prolong their Premier League stay – even though it’s unlikely they’ll avoid relegation this summer.
That being said, they host a West Ham side who desperately need points themselves to avoid the drop zone too.
As evidenced by their recent 3-2 win over Chelsea, they’re well-equipped to deal with high-pressure situations and expected to win here.
Norwich: Krul; Lewis, Klose, Godfrey, Aarons; Vrancic, Tettey, Cantwell; Hernandez, Pukki, Buendia.
West Ham: Fabianski; Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Soucek, Rice, Fornals; Yarmolenko, Antonio, Bowen.
Watford vs Newcastle United: Welbeck and co aim to build after big win
If you haven’t had the pleasure of watching Danny Welbeck’s wonderful winner against Norwich yet, please go do it now.
It was the forward’s first Premier League goal since August 2018 and an audacious strike which both highlighted Norwich’s poor defending and his technical ability.
Since joining on a free transfer from Arsenal last summer, the England international has only made five top-flight starts for Watford. After that matchwinning display, he’s likely to be rewarded with another against Newcastle – who have problems of their own.
Their influential centre-back Jamaal Lascelles (ankle) is listed as doubtful for this fixture, as is chief creator Allan Saint-Maximin. The latter has been in impressive form since play resumed last month, though it’s unclear whether the Frenchman will feature.
Whether he does or not, head coach Steve Bruce will still feel inclined to make wholesale changes after they were thrashed 5-0 by Manchester City on Wednesday.
Wingers Matt Richie and Valentino Lazaro were among the Geordies‘ best players in Eastlands, though Pep Guardiola’s men overwhelmed them.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Dwight Gayle – notorious for his inconsistency – starts ahead of Joelinton in attack. Christian Atsu and Yoshinori Muto also made late cameo appearances against City, while £21m signing Miguel Almiron was left unused.
Newcastle shook off their dismal start to the campaign and have importantly shown their ability to scrap with everyone.
However, Watford need all three points while Steve Bruce’s men are essentially playing to achieve a credible league finish.
It’s tricky to predict, though I’m leaning towards a narrow home win as Nigel Pearson’s men will be in a buoyant mood after their midweek victory.
Watford: Foster; Femenia, Dawson, Kabasele, Masina; Capoue, Doucoure, Hughes; Sarr, Deeney, Welbeck.
Newcastle: Dubravka; Rose, Fernandez, Krafth, Yedlin; Schar, Shelvey, Almiron; Ritchie, Joelinton, Lazaro.