Chelsea: Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Ramires, Matic, Willian, Oscar, Pedro, Diego Costa
Watford: Gomes, Nyom, Britos, Cathcart, Holebas, Abdi, Watson, Capoue, Jurado, Ighalo, Deeney
Well what a 10 days it has been if you are a Chelsea fan. After seeing the ‘Happy One’ leave last week, Stamford Bridge last weekend against Sunderland became the nation’s most public Christmas pantomime as the Matthew Harding Stand booed their villains and chanted the name of their own personal messiah. For any manager watching in the stands and waiting in the wings to take over it would have made for quite an unsettling experience but Guus Hiddink has been here before. It was back in 2009 that Guus saved the day the first time, taking over from ‘Big Phil’ Scolari after Mourinho’s faithful lieutenants on the pitch decided he wasn’t the man to lead their team any longer. This is a very different atmosphere however for the Dutchman the second time around.
The sacking of José Mourinho appears to be due to a fracture in the squad, a failure from certain players to carry out Mourinho’s instructions but questions have to be asked about what has been going on behind closed doors at Chelsea all season? Such issues might not be the biggest issue for Hiddink, after all he is a great man manager. The difference between his first and second stint as Chelsea caretaker boss is the potential fissure that could develop between fans and players. Whilst I jokingly quipped about the Bridge becoming a pantomime,hearing Chelsea fan’s boo their players whilst they led Sunderland 3-1, or to respond to a goal by chanting the ex-managers name is just unheard of. As Terry’s influence wanes, Chelsea need a new breed of leader and Hiddink most now try to identify some big characters over the next couple of weeks.
I wrote about Watford last weekend, so I will be fairly brief this time round concerning the Hornets, but of the all the games to get this weekend, this perhaps is the hardest one Hiddink could of wanted. No one would have thought that Watford would have adapted so well to the Premier League and I for one royally messed up the prediction for last weekend. Against a Liverpool team who were admittedly shocking last weekend, Watford were fantastic.
Playing 4-4-2, with two strong, dynamic and pacey centre forwards, Watford have found a way of making the most English of formations work in the Premier League. Whilst obvious names spring to mind when asking who is Watford’s player of the season to date (Oghalo, Deeney, Capoue have been stand out), one player who seems to developing very nicely under Sanchez Flores tutelage is Nathan Aké. This weekend sees Aké unable to play through the terms of his loan, and with calls for Hiddink to call him back to Cobham, you have to wonder what the future holds for Aké and his prospects at a team who aren’t renowned for promoting from within.
I don’t see much change for either XI this coming weekend. The one great flaw in Chelsea’s squad last year was the small squad that Mourinho operated with. Luckily for them a year ago, form and fitness never asked big questions from the 16 or 17 players Mourinho trusted. Now with potentially both form and fitness lacking, Chelsea are short in several areas. For Hiddink it might be more of a question of channelling a sense of liberation the players clearly felt against Sunderland in a way conducive to produce results. For Watford I expect the only real change to be replacing Nathan Aké. The Watford team are both on a good run and clearly developing a team spirit crucial to staying in the Premier League. This game could see their good form continue.
Match Prediction Chelsea 2-2 Watford