Watford host Middlesbrough at Vicarage Road on Friday night in the Championship in English football’s 2020/21 campaign’s curtain-raiser.
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Having suffered relegation from the Premier League last season, the Hornets have a new manager in charge.
Vladimir Ivic is the man tasked with taking them back to the top-flight; the 43-year-old is a former Serbia and Montenegro international who has largely been appointed as a result of superb work with Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel, winning back-to-back titles with a 66.67% win rate during his time in charge there.
Where and When is Watford v Middlesbrough played?
The match kicks off at Watford’s Vicarage Road ground, London on September 11th 2020. Kick off time is 19:45GMT.
The Boro, meanwhile, appointed Neil Warnock in late June after falling into the relegation zone. The EFL’s oldest manager did typically good work in keeping them in the division, winning five of his nine games in charge to steer them into 17th place.
Watford, one of the ante-post favourites to win the division are even-money favourites to win this match. The draw is 23/10, with an away win 3/1.
It remains to be seen whether the likes of captain Troy Deeney, Ismaila Sarr, Danny Welbeck and Etienne Capoue – all of whom have been linked with moves away and have not featured in pre-season – will be considered for selection by Ivic here.
One player who certainly won’t is midfielder Abdoulaye Doucouré, whose £20m move to Everton was completed earlier this week.
In terms of incomings, Ivic’s most notable signing has been striker Glenn Murray from Brighton. Murray, who turns 37 in a couple of weeks, has 61 goals in his last 105 appearances at this level, and hit double figures in two of his three Premier League seasons with Brighton. Clearly, then, despite his advancing years, he could be an excellent strike partner for Andre Gray should Deeney depart.
Gray joins Will Hughes on the injury list for this one. Should Murray lead the line, 15/8 (Sky Bet) on him scoring anytime looks a good price.
The visitors, meanwhile, appear to be in the midst of a cost-cutting exercise with their Premier League parachute payments running out last year. George Friend, Adam Clayton, Daniel Ayala, Ryan Shotton and Rudy Gestede have been released, with central defender Grant Hall the only arrival at the club.
Their hopes will heavily hinge on Britt Assombalonga, who is 3/1 (Betfair) to score anytime against Watford. The striker has hit double figures in each of his three seasons with Middlesbrough. His strike partner Ashley Fletcher, who matched Assambalonga’s tally last season, can be backed at 18/5 (Unibet).
Keith Stroud officiates this season opener, and he’s a referee who can generally be relied upon for cards. He has shown both sides one or more cards in 16 of his last 19 matches at this level, averaging 4.06 yellow cards per game throughout his career.
With Ivic said to be a real disciplinarian and Warnock sides rarely shying away from a physical battle, I can certainly see a few cards here as both sides look to impress their new managers and stake a claim for the long season ahead.
Both managers will likely deploy a back five and look to keep it tight, so I’m struggling to see many goals to be honest.
If you’re looking for bigger odds and Murray does start, I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from replacing the Watford double chance element of the bet with Murray scoring for 5/1.