Gary Neville is supremely pleased that Watford are back in the top flight but isn’t “particularly excited” about them. The last time they were in the top flight they won 5-0 against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and maybe Neville was right to be a little cautious of the Hornets. But then again, this line-up is a very interesting one and will give them something to really think about.
David Luiz will miss the game through suspension but Branislav Ivanovic could make his first appearance since Chelsea’s 6-0 defeat at Manchester City in May. Ivanovic has been loaned to the Galatasaray and was used sparingly under Guus Hiddink at Stamford Bridge this season. It’s the position being flogged by the Turkish club, but if he ever did get a game for them at Stamford Bridge this term, he would represent a massive improvement on this Chelsea team. The Ivorian is part of the special piece of history club of having a player wear five different jerseys. He would become only the fifth player to do so with Chelsea.
Watford’s manager, Javi Gracia, will be expecting some entertainment from his counterpart at Stamford Bridge. His predecessor, Walter Mazzarri, became known as the defender’s cat by the plucky Watford squad and there is a history of ill feeling between the managers, especially when Gracia was manager of La Liga side Getafe. Chelsea have the best defensive record in the Premier League.
Reminiscent of their ultra-positive tactics, Watford are seeking to deliver a slow-burn and surprise tonight. Luiz and Ivanovic’s replacements in central defence, Antonio Rudiger and César Azpilicueta, can provide that kind of foundation. In the early signs, Eden Hazard has made an adjustment from a little more leggy pace to his usual more direct flair, while Pedro has taken advantage of Victor Moses’ loss to injury.