Hornets desperate to capitalise on home games to haul them out of relegation scrap as they take on new and improved Whites


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Watford have failed to win at Vicarage Road since November, but now face a predicament where their home games are going to prove vital to their survival. 

With Burnley grabbing a late winner against Everton, and Leeds finding form under new manager Jesse Marsch, the relegation battle has taken a new turn. 

With Norwich somewhat adrift, the onus is on Watford, Burnley and Everton now to battle it out in attempt to scramble out of the relegation zone. 

The Hornets’ run of twelve games without a win over the festive and new year period plunged Watford in grave danger. After the sacking of Claudio Ranieri, Roy Hodgson arrived to try and steer the club in the right direction, and whilst he has been partially successful, two wins in his ten games in charge has not been enough to help them evade the drop zone. 

A recent victory away at Southampton has kept the Hertfordshire club’s hopes alive, and those two goals from Cucho Hernandez could well prove to be precious in the long run. 

With tough away trips to Chelsea and Manchester City in the run-in, Watford’s home run could be the difference between survival and an instant return to the Championship. Brentford, Burnley, Everton and Leicester all still await visits to Vicarage Road between now and the end of the season. Should Watford survive, one would assume it may be in these games that their fate would be decided. 

Meanwhile, Leeds United have endured a rollercoaster season that has seen the departure of longtime coach Marcelo Bielsa thanks to poor league form that has seen them dragged into a relegation battle of their own. 

Injuries have plagued the Yorkshire sides campaign, with key players such as Patrick Bamford and Kalvin Phillips unable to find any kind of form due to their fitness problems. 

Much speculation was made about the appointment of the American coach, but after two defeats to start his tenure he has made his impression with back to back victories over Norwich City and Wolves. One thing there can be no speculation over is whether Leeds do things the easy way, as they required stoppage-time goals in both such victories. Goals from Joe Gelhardt and Luke Ayling earned Leeds four vitally important points, leaving the club breathing a little easier with a six-point buffer on their drop zone rivals. 

That being said, the work is still not yet done for Marsch’s side, as Everton, Burnley, and indeed Watford all have games in hand on them. With a tough run-in of their own, Leeds will be anxious to increase the margin between themselves and the bottom three when they can. 

Bar any late absentees, Watford will come into this game at full strength with no injury concerns to note. This means the Hornets will likely be able to boast a front three that includes the talented young duo of Hernandez and Joao Pedro, as well as their top scorer in Emmanuel Dennis. 

Leeds will still be without their talisman in Bamford as he was reinjured in the win at Molineux. The Whites will also be without Junior Firpo, Tyler Roberts and Jamie Shackleton. However, Raphinha and Jack Harrison are both fit to feature. 

On paper, this game could well feature goals, with Leeds still holding the unfortunate record of the worst defence in the league, with Watford not far behind in third, despite conceding 11 less. 

However, with what is at stake for the two sides, particularly the hosts, the contest could develop into a rather more scrappy affair. 

A win for Hodgson’s Hornets could put them level on points with Everton, whereas defeat would leave them with one less game to claw themselves out of the drop zone. A point would not be drastic, but it would certainly be classed as a missed opportunity. 

As for Leeds, although this game may not qualify as ‘do or die’, a victory would certainly go a long way to securing the club’s Premier League status, as they would move to 33 points and take a win from a direct relegation rival. A point would suffice, though Marsch would certainly rather take the three points with the fixtures coming up. A defeat could pull Leeds back into the dogfight, particularly if results were not to their way. The travelling Whites fans will hope the bounce from their new manager will be enough to see them through this game, and indeed the rest of the season so they can start again in 2022/2023. 

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