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Roy Hodgson is running out of time to salvage Watford’s top-flight status for another season, and only a win will do for the Hornets if they are to stay alive in the relegation dogfight for much longer, as an immediate return to the Championship becomes more realistic by the week.
A trip to the Etihad Stadium to face Manchester City normally only ends one way for Watford – with a glut of goals going past them. Gabriel Jesus single-handedly ensured that would be the case again, scoring four himself while also setting up Rodri in a 5-1 thumping.
The tiny flicker of hope Watford received from Hassane Kamara‘s 28th-minute response was immediately extinguished by the red-hot Jesus, and a run of four straight defeats means that Watford are all but condemned to relegation, although they will not be completely down and out this weekend.
Victory for Burnley would leave Watford with a 12-point gap to make up to the Clarets with four games remaining, and they will also be welcoming Everton to Vicarage Road on May 11, but their status as Championship returnees may have already been confirmed before then.
The Hornets’ run of four straight defeats has also seen them concede an average of three goals per game in that stretch, and they could also set an unwanted top-flight record of 11 straight defeats on home turf, so every ounce of fighting spirit left in Hodgson’s side must come to the fore this weekend.
Watford continue to cope without striker Cucho Hernandez for the long-term, while Kwadwo Baah is now back from an ankle injury and is fighting to return to the squad.
Hodgson will also hope to be boosted by the returns of Juraj Kucka, Kiko Femenia, Samuel Kalu and Francisco Sierralta for the relegation six-pointer, with the former two only suffering from minor knocks while Kalu and Sierralta were back in training before the City defeat.
Despite the thrashing inflicted upon them by the reigning champions, Hodgson is unlikely to consider many changes to his Watford XI barring a potential freshening up of the backline with Femenia and Craig Cathcart.
As far as Burnley are concerned, Jackson is still working without Ashley Westwood, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Erik Pieters and Ben Mee – the latter of whom could still be back in the fold before the end of the season.
Jay Rodriguez‘s calf problem could mean a recall for Aaron Lennon out wide, with Jackson set to make a late call on the involvement of Maxwel Cornet owing to a small knee issue.
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Barring Lennon or Cornet’s inclusion out wide, it should be as you were for the in-form Clarets, as Jackson aims to become the first manager in Burnley history to avoid defeat in his first four top-flight games in charge.
Watford possible starting lineup:
Foster; Femenia, Samir, Cathcart, Kamara; Cleverley, Louza, Sissoko; Sarr, Dennis, King
Burnley possible starting lineup:
Pope; Roberts, Collins, Tarkowski, Taylor; McNeil, Cork, Brownhill, Lennon; Weghorst, Vydra