Watford vs MiddlesbroughEnglish Championship, KO: 19:45 Sep 11, 2020, Vicarage Road
WATFORD are still licking their wounds after crashing out of the Premier League but can't afford to feel sorry for themselves as the bid for a quickfire return gets underway against Middlesbrough.
The hire-and-fire strategy employed by the Hornets board backfired last season as four gaffers oversaw their slide towards the second tier.
Hayden Mullins was at the helm when relegation was confirmed with a 3-2 loss against Arsenal on the final day, a game where two of my tips came up.
But he was on a hiding to nothing, handed the reins for matches against Manchester City and the Gunners after the baffling decision to bin Nigel Pearson with just two fixtures left
Vladimir Ivic has now taken over but the former PAOK and Maccabi Tel Aviv coach faces a daunting task steadying the ship. The expected exodus of stars has yet to begin, with only Abdoulaye Doucoure and Jose Holebas moving on, but you suspect that will soon change.
And with eight big names missing the season opener through injury and lack of fitness this could be a baptism of fire for the new Serbian coach.
Ivic is perhaps lucky that it's Middlesbrough coming calling as they also had a horrendous end to the season, only just avoiding relegation to League One.
But boss Neil Warnock (below) is a past master in the Championship and knows how to get the best out of the players at his disposal so Boro should steer clear of another scrap against the drop.
How the bookies view it
Middlesbrough are as big as 3/1 with Unibet for a win and that looks superb value given all the injury problems at Watford. The Hornets are a best 21/20 at Vbet while the stalemate is 5/2 with Unibet.
Watford are missing most of their stars with Ismaila Sarr, Gerard Deulofeu, Troy Deeney, Andre Gray, Will Hughes, Etienne Capoue, Roberto Pereyra and Danny Welbeck all out.
Hayden Coulson missed Middlesbrough's Carabao Cup win over Shrewsbury due to injury and is a doubt again here. Paddy McNair and George Saville are available again after returning from international duty with Northern Ireland.
Recent head to head
Watford are unbeaten in their last seven games against Middlesbrough, winning four. Their last meeting was a 0-0 snorefest at Vicarage Road three years ago in the top flight while you have to go back to 2012 for Boro's last win against the Hornets.
Players to watch
Ashley Fletcher netted twice for Middlesbrough against Shrewsbury in the Cup last week so will be full of confidence. He's 18/5 with Unibet to score here which looks overpriced.
Anything else catch the eye?
Ivic is known for being an attacking coach while Boro's last game produced seven goals so there should be some thrills. Over 2.5 goals pays 5/4 at BetVictor and that looks a good option, as does a goal being scored in each half at evens with the same firm.
William Hill are offering 7/5 on Middlesbrough winning over one corner in each half and that catches my eye.
This English Championship match between Watford and Middlesbrough will be played on Sep 11, 2020 and kick off at 19:45. Check below for our tipsters best Watford vs Middlesbrough prediction.