Analysis

West Ham United vs Watford – 5 Key Clashes to look forward to

MichailAntonio-vs-norwich

West Ham United welcome Watford to the London Stadium on Friday night, with both teams on 34 points going into this match. West Ham are 16th, one ahead of Watford in 17th due to greater goal differential.

Norwich have already been relegated, while Bournemouth are three points behind in 19th, which means that a win here for either team will almost ensure that they stay up in the league.

With just three games left in the league, all eyes will be on this high-stakes fixture and both managers will be putting out their strongest eleven on the field. Here are five key head to head battles that could decide the fate of the match on Friday:

Michail Antonio vs Troy Deeney

West Ham striker Michail Antonio scored four goals in their last game against Norwich, picking up his first senior hat-trick. The Englishman looked unstoppable against the Canaries over the weekend, as he put four past a hapless Norwich defence.

Sebastian Haller and Yarmolenko have been in good form and are pushing for a spot in the lineup, but Moyes will prefer to stick to Antonio up front who has been in superb form since the restart.

Troy Deeney had scored just six goals in the league prior to their last fixture against Newcastle, but scored two penalties in the second half to clinch an important win for the Hornets.

At 32, he is not the most agile of forwards, but the Watford No.9 is the best attacking threat that Nigel Pearson has right now. The Hornets will be dependent on Deeney to perform to the maximum with survival in the top-flight in sight.

Declan Rice vs Abdoulaye Doucoure

Declan Rice has been an absolute game changer in the West Ham midfield this season. He has a terrific work-rate and fantastic stamina to keep with opposition attackers and protect the backline.

Rice has played every minute of West Ham’s league games this season, showing how important he is for the Hammers. The 21-year-old must put in another solid defensive performance against Watford to help his team stay up in the division.

France international Abdoulaye Doucoure used to play in the holding midfield role, but has been deployed in a more advanced role since the arrival of Nigel Pearson. The 27-year-old has taken up the number 10 role perfectly, using his strength and aggression to create space for the attackers and has proven to be an incredible offensive threat.

Doucoure has been an undisputed starter in the midfield this season and will be expected to start in a must-win game for the Hornets.

Lukasz Fabianski vs Ben Foster

Fabianski struggled with a hip injury he suffered earlier this season, allowing him to make only 22 appearances in the league so far. The 35-year-old has made some very important saves for the Hammers, swaying the outcome in their favour.

The West Ham defence has been very shaky and error prone in the current campaign, and the Poland international will have to be on his toes to prevent any slip-ups against Watford.

Ben Foster has been the undisputed start for the Hornets in goal this season. The former Manchester United, despite being 37, has shown incredible reflexes to make some very important saves, making an average of 3 saves per match in the league. Foster will need to be at his best to ensure that Watford leave the London Stadium with all three points tomorrow.

Mark Noble vs Etienne Capoue

Veteran Mark Noble is now playing his 16th season for the Hammers, and continues to put out impressive performances for his boyhood club. The match against Watford will be his 500th appearance for the club, a truly extraordinary achievement for the 33-year-old.

He has been involved in a majority of their games this season, and will be integral in their bid to escape relegation.

The 32-year-old Capoue has been part of the double pivot with Will Hughes under Nigel Pearson, breaking up attacks and handling defensive duties while the rest of the midfielders push forward. A tireless attitude, coupled with his physicality and excellent vision make him an important figure in the Watford lineup.

Jarrod Bowen vs Ismaila Sarr

Jarrod Bowen was signed by the Hammers from Hull City in the January transfer window. The 23-year-old has already made 10 appearances for West Ham, and has played an influential role in their attack. The winger contributes defensively as well, tracking down opposition forwards and it will be interesting to see him face off against Watford winger Ismaila Sarr.

Sarr joined the Hornets in a transfer from Rennes at the start of this season. The Senegal international has scored five goals this season, including two goals against Liverpool and has proved to be Watford’s most valuable asset under Nigel Pearson. The 22-year-old will be one to look out for West Ham, as their defence will struggle to contain his pace and trickery.

A much intense game we could be having on our hands tonight with all playing for survival.

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