Sunday, February 28
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Jan 22, 2021 at 7.45pm UK
StokeStoke City
Fletcher (83')
Collins (81')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Deeney (64' pen.), Sarr (68')
Sierralta (18'), Femenia (34')

Preview: Stoke City vs. Watford - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Stoke City vs. Watford - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Friday's Championship clash between Stoke City and Watford, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Watford head into Friday's Championship encounter at Stoke City with the opportunity to move level on points with second-placed Swansea City.

Despite remaining in contention for the playoffs, the Potters welcome the Hornets to the bet365 Stadium having failed to win in five matches.

Match preview

Newly-appointed Watford boss Xisco has picked up where Vladimir Ivic left off, picking up victories by narrow margins on a regular basis.

However, while the club's supporters would prefer to be winning games far more comfortably, the change in mood since the Spaniard's arrival is what is crucial to Watford's promotion chances.

Ivic deserves credit for helping Watford get back up and running after relegation from the Premier League, but there are early signs that Xisco has the potential to secure an immediate return to the top flight.

Nine points from four Championship games, a schedule which has included contests versus the top two, has lifted the club to within three points of the automatic promotion places.

Tuesday's 1-0 win over Barnsley came courtesy of a Troy Deeney penalty, but Xisco will take confidence from his side having now gone 265 minutes without conceding a goal in all competitions.

While Stoke have also made a habit of keeping things tight for much of the season, there are signs that Michael O'Neill's side have lost their way in the second tier.

A back-and-forth 3-3 draw at Rotherham United earlier this week means that Stoke have now failed to win a game in any competition for more than a month.

As well as exits from the EFL Cup and FA Cup, five fixtures without success in the second tier have left the team at risk of being pulled into mid-table.

Positives will be taken from Nick Powell scoring in successive games, but O'Neill will acknowledge that Stoke are close to entering must-win territory if they want to stay in contention for the top six.

Stoke City Championship form: WDDLDD
Stoke City form (all competitions): DDLLDD

Watford Championship form: DLWLWW
Watford form (all competitions): LWLLWW

Team News

James Chester will return to the Stoke XI after serving a one-match ban, leaving Danny Batth in line to feature among the replacements.

Further changes are expected with Tommy Smith, Joe Allen, James McClean and Steven Fletcher all in contention for a recall.

Xisco is also likely to make alterations to his Watford side with Nathaniel Chalobah and Joao Pedro among the players who should return.

Philip Zinckernagel is also pushing for his first Championship start on one of the flanks.

Stoke City possible starting lineup:
Bursik; Collins, Souttar, Chester; Smith, Allen, Mikel, Thompson, McClean; Powell, Fletcher

Watford possible starting lineup:
Bachmann; Femenia, Troost-Ekong, Sierralta, Masina; Sarr, Chalobah, Hughes, Zinckernagel; Deeney, Pedro

We say: Stoke City 1-2 Watford

Having lost significant ground on the top six, Stoke are under pressure to turn things around against opponents who they will still regard as direct rivals. However, confidence is high in the Hornets' ranks, and we expect the visitors to battle their way to a hard-earned three points.

Top betting tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 1.5:data

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Championship Table
1Norwich CityNorwich33217547252270
4Swansea CitySwansea31178639221759
8Cardiff CityCardiff331481149351450
10Stoke CityStoke331112103837145
11Bristol City33143163544-945
13Preston North EndPreston33134163742-543
14Luton TownLuton32118132737-1041
15Blackburn RoversBlackburn32117144638840
16Nottingham ForestNott'm Forest331010132832-440
17Queens Park RangersQPR311010113136-540
18Derby CountyDerby32108142533-838
19Huddersfield TownHuddersfield33106173850-1236
20Coventry CityCoventry33811143044-1435
21Birmingham CityBirmingham33810152541-1634
22Rotherham UnitedRotherham3185183342-929
23Sheffield WednesdaySheff Weds3297162338-1528
24Wycombe WanderersWycombe3258192353-3023
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Premier League Table
1Manchester CityMan City26195252163662
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd26148453322150
3Leicester CityLeicester26154745301549
4West Ham UnitedWest Ham2613674031945
8Tottenham HotspurSpurs25116841271439
9Aston Villa24123938261239
11Leeds UnitedLeeds26112134344-135
12Wolverhampton WanderersWolves2697102733-634
13Crystal Palace2696112943-1433
16Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton26511102633-726
17Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2675142744-1726
19West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom2638152055-3517
20Sheffield UnitedSheff Utd2632211543-2811
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