Watford kick off the 2020-21 Sky Bet Championship season with a tasty home tie against Middlesbrough at Vicarage Road in Friday Night Football, as the Hornets return to the second tier after relegation from Premier League in July.
This match is Watford’s first match back in the Championship since May 2015 whilst Boro look to bounce back from a dire campaign last time out, as Neil Warnock takes the permanent reins after a temporary one month stint from June.
Ismaila Sarr is ruled out for Watford after having recently returned from Senegal and is yet to work with the first team under Vladimir Ivic.
Daryl Janmaat (knee), Adam Masina (tendon) Isaac Success (Achilles), Gerard Deulofeu, Troy Deeney (both knee) are also sidelined alongside; Will Hughes, Etienne Capoue, Roberto Pereyra, Andre Gray and Danny Welbeck who are all absent with unspecified injuries.
Middlesbrough have no fresh injury concerns from their 4-3 League Cup win over Shrewsbury Town last weekend, as Paddy McNair and George Saville re-join the squad after representing Northern Ireland on international duty last weekend.
- Watford are unbeaten in their last seven meetings against Middlesbrough in all competitions (W4, D3).
- Middlesbrough have won just one of their last eight trips to Vicarage Road in all competitions (W1, D2, L5).
- All four previous meetings between these teams in the month of September have been held at Vicarage Road within the second tier, with the Hornets unbeaten in three of those four clashes (W2, D1, L1).
- Watford have won both of their first games back in the Championship following two previous Premier League relegations, although both wins did come away from Vicarage Road in August 2000 and 07 respectively.
- Middlesbrough are winless in their last five opening league games of a new season (D4, L1), whilst this is the second consecutive season that Boro feature in the first live TV match on a Friday Night and again away from the Riverside Stadium.
After producing shambolic defensive performances throughout last season despite being in different divisions, Watford and Middlesbrough know that this will be an early test of whether their new permanent managers have begun to shore up those back lines whilst making progress in terms of attack.
Watford however seem to have hit an early injury crisis which is a huge concern with key players in Deeney, Gray and Sarr all ruled out because this is the worst possible start for them attacking wise, although Ivic probably should be relieved that it isn’t a defensive injury crisis given Boro’s attacking quality going forward which was very strong against Shrewsbury last week in the League Cup.
Boro however seem to still struggle with their marking because they did allow in some sloppy goals which could of been avoided with better man marking and possibly even tightness in the back lines.
I therefore am expecting goals here but if Middlesbrough can improve their defensive aspects then I can see them ending their Vicarage Road and opening weekend ruts with victory.
Prediction: Watford 1-2 Middlesbrough
Result: Watford 1-0 Middlesbrough