Premier League preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Watford

Nick Potts/PA via AP
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  • Spurs 3rd in the PL, 5 points off leaders Leicester
  • Watford down to 9th after recent 4-game losing streak
  • Spurs last lost to Watford on Oct. 4, 1994
  • First meeting (Dec. 28): Watford 1-2 Spurs

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Tottenham Hotspur, the most in-form team in the Premier League (13 points from their last six league games) and winners of three straight, welcome Watford to White Hart Lane on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) with a guaranteed opportunity to close gap on PL leaders Leicester City and second-place Manchester City, who play one another earlier in the day.

Tottenham currently sit third in the league table, the first time they’ve been inside the top-three post-September since April 2013. Tuesday’s resounding victory over Norwich City, coupled with Arsenal dropping points against Southampton, has Spurs ahead of their north London rivals on goal differential (Spurs’ +25 mark is tops in the PL this season). Any residual speculation of Harry Kane being a “one-season wonder” has been smashed to bits, as the 22-year-old England marksman is up to 15 league goals (18 in all competitions) after a slow start to the season, in which he failed to find the back of the net in six straight league games (eight in all competitions).

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At the conclusion of Boxing Day, Watford sat a dizzying seventh in the league table, but have won just once in their six post-Boxing Day scraps with the likes of Spurs, Man City, Southampton and Chelsea. Not so coincidentally, Odion Ighalo, who had been an early-season revelation for the Hornets, has just two goals during that stretch (12 goals in 18 games prior). The PL’s stingiest defense (19 goals conceded in 24 games) isn’t a particular ideal opponent against which to bust out of a goalscoring slump.

On the injury front, Spurs will be without Jan Verthongen (knee) for a number of weeks, while Ryan Mason (ankle) will face a late fitness test in his bid in order to be available for selection. For Watford, it’s all good news on the latest injury report, as Quique Sanchez Flores will have a full squad from which to pick his team.

What they’re saying

Spurs midfielder Eric Dier: “They’re a very organized team, they’ve got two players up front who can cause you a lot of problems and we’re going to have to be at our best to be able to beat them. To be fair to them, they’ve stuck with the way they play and their formation and it’s worked well for them, but I think it might be a bit of a different game now that we’re playing at home.”

Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores: “We enjoy every time we go to play against big teams in amazing stadiums. It’s a big opportunity for Watford to show everyone that we are ready and we are very competitive. … The atmosphere is good, the players are positive, they transmit very good feelings and I am sure that tomorrow against Tottenham we will go to the pitch with the idea to be competitive.”

Prediction

Spurs exuded total dominance over Watford in their last meeting, away from home, with great thanks to their numerical advantage in the center of midfield. Watford’s two couldn’t compete with Spurs’ three, and were subsequently overrun for 90 minutes. Expect more of the same this time around, and for strikers Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney to be saddled with loads and loads of defensive duties. Spurs 2-0 Watford.