Last season’s surprise package Wolverhampton Wanderers welcome fellow strugglers Watford in a crucial three pointer in the West Midlands on Saturday afternoon.
In the Premier League pond, the big fish reign supreme, something which Quique Sanchez Flores and Watford will be all too familiar with, having been well and truly torn to shreds in the shark infested waters of the Etihad last weekend. A demoralising plummet back down to earth after the Spaniard rescued a point against Arsenal in his return to Vicarage Road.
Wolves are also gasping for air in the merky depths of the bottom three after scrounging a measly 4 points from their opening 6 games, a late equaliser from Diogo Jota preventing Nuno Espirito Santo’s men from suffering a fourth defeat on the trot against Crystal Palace.
Perhaps ailing with symptoms of the infamous ‘second season syndrome’ or just a sore head from a European hangover, Wolves have already clocked an impressive 14 competitive outings this season and will be eager to shake off any fatigue by claiming a first league win against The Hornets this weekend.
Despite their poor league form, both sides prevailed in the Carabao Cup midweek, which will provide a welcome boost to morale coming into this game.
Due to the high stakes nature of this clash, I’m banking on referee Paul Tierney having his work cut out, keeping the peace between two under pressure sides in desperate need of a win. The man in the middle is averaging 25 fouls per game, which is the second highest in the Premier League, showing 4.00 cards per game in the process.
Both sides rank highly in terms of total attempted tackles, averaging north of 30 per game, as well as fouls committed per game (Watford 12pg, Wolves 11.5pg). Players from both teams have received multiple cautions so far this season, including regular offender José Holebas (3YC), tough tackling midfielder Etienne Capoue (2YC) and Portuguese midfielder Rúben Neves (2YC). Three Wolves players are averaging over 3 tackles a game, João Moutinho, Jonny and Willy Boly, the latter receiving his marching orders away at Everton. Wolves have received the most red cards this season (2), the last of which came against Crystal Palace, Moroccan enforcer Romain Saïss picking up a second yellow card for unnecessarily clipping the heels of Palace winger Wilfried Zaha.
The clipping of heels, shirt pulling and challenges from behind may be something to keep your eye on in this game too. Watford have been dribbled past an average 13.2 times per game, which is the second highest in the league. Wolves have also been pretty easy to navigate as well, being dribbled past 12.3 times per game, which is 4th highest in the league.
The recent history of this fixture bodes well, as the last 5 competitive matches between these two sides have involved atleast 40 booking points.
Wolves vs. Watford – 40+ total booking points – 10/11 (SkyBet)