Two of last season’s relegated sides meet at Vicarage Road on Friday night as Watford play host to Burnley.
After Norwich’s sluggish start to the season, drawing with Cardiff and Wigan, Watford have been installed as the new Championship favourites, despite a disappointing performance of their own against West Brom on Monday night.
Ismaila Sarr’s goal is one we’ll be seeing for years, and in time, no one will remember the missed penalty, or the fact Watford were fortunate to leave the Hawthorns with a point. But they’ll need to be much better against Burnley, and Friday presents an opportunity to put a real marker down, against a fellow promotion contender.
Having spent years frustrating possession-based teams in the Premier League, the tables have been well and truly turned on Vincent Kompany’s Clarets. We may only be two games into the season, but it’s safe to say we know exactly what we’ll get from Burnley over the next nine months.
From their first two games against Huddersfield and Luton, they had 70% and 71% of possession, but scored just two goals, and were unable to overturn the Hatters’ early lead at the weekend.
There’s no doubt of the technical quality in the Burnley ranks, but the lack of a goalscorer may be their downfall if one isn’t brought in by the end of the month, particularly having registered just one shot on target at Turf Moor on Saturday.
They’ve been presented with two very different tests in their opening two fixtures, and Watford will pose another challenge, but Burnley fans will head to Hertfordshire full of optimism.
For my first selection, I’m picking Tom Cleverley to be booked. We’ve seen how dominant Burnley are on the ball, and should that continue on Friday night, the former Manchester United man could find himself very busy in the Hornets’ engine room.
Cleverley picked up six bookings for Watford in his last Championship campaign and already has one this time around – I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make it two against Burnley, particularly having committed the most fouls (3) in Watford's opener against Sheffield United.
My second selection is for both teams to score. Watford fans will be expecting an improved performance, particularly in front of their home fans, and if they can bag first, they might be happy to let Burnley have the ball.
There’s also plenty of pace in Ismaila Sarr and Emmanuel Dennis to hit the Clarets on the break. While Burnley haven’t yet found their stride in front of goal, if they continue to hog possession, they should carve out enough openings to find the net.
Which brings me onto my final selection. I’m not backing Josh Brownhill to score in the second successive game, but I do fancy him for Over 0.5 Shots. Playing in a more advanced role, his manager has suggested he could be one of the players of the season in the second tier.
He impressed when scoring against Luton, and having had two shots in each of his first two matches, his confidence will be high, and he’ll likely fancy his chances should he get another sight of goal on Friday night.
Tom Cleverley to be Booked - 11/2
Both Teams to Score - 5/6
Josh Brownhill Over 0.5 Shots - 2/11
By Steve Freeth