Brighton and Hove Albion begin their second season in the Premier League away to Watford on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 15:00).
The Seagulls drew 0-0 at Vicarage Road last season – a fixture which Albion fans will fondly remember after Miguel Britos’ moment of madness led to a dangerous lunge on Anthony Knockaert and subsequent red card. Pascal Groß’s 64th minute strike earned Brighton a 1-0 victory in their last encounter at the Amex back in December.
Watford finished a place and a point ahead of Albion in the table back in May, but some suggest that their top flight status is under serious threat this season.
They have been notoriously quick out of the blocks during a league campaign, accumulating the majority of points needed for survival before Christmas. They are also notorious for seeing their form jump out of the window, and the Club consequently drop from European contenders to Premier League survivalists. Some predict that the contrasting form and constant managerial changes will eventually catch up with them, whilst others believe that they will be in for a fully fledged relegation battle this season.
Watford supporter Adam Rowe explains how the Hornets could surprise a few this season, should they can keep their key players fit.
How have Watford fared in pre-season?
“Results wise it’s been a very successful pre-season for us. We have gone throughout the whole summer unbeaten, however key players such as Abdoulaye Doucoure, Nathaniel Chalobah and Gerard Deulofeu have yet to feature due to injury, which is a cause for concern.”
How would you rate the Hornet’s transfer window? Have any new signings impressed? What are your views on Richarlison’s big-money move to Everton?
“The biggest signing of our window has been the contract extension of Doucoure, he is a massive player for us. The permanent signing of Gerard Deulofeu is pleasing too, he showed in glimpses how valuable he could be to us before he got injured.
“Although it’s disappointing that Richarlison departed (particularly because he’s going to join Marco Silva), it’s a huge fee that the club were never going to turn down. He didn’t make the starting-11 for large parts of the second half of last season so I’m pretty confident we will be okay without him.”
Javi Gracia has been in charge for a while now, has he implemented a new style that the fans are happy with?
“Javi Gracia has certainly divided opinion amongst Watford fans. He is most definitely a nice guy and based on personality he is well liked. However, his playing style in the second half of last season was somewhat negative and we eventually crawled over the line in terms of survival.
“But he did what he was brought into do, which was to keep us in the league. We are yet to score a goal away from home under Gracia and have only picked up a solitary away point. That away form has got to change or I feel fans could soon be on his back. In my view I think now he has had pre-season he can be better judged.”
Who would you say are the danger men Brighton should watch out for?
“Will Hughes has been nothing short of superb when he’s been fit. He is a match winner for us and makes the team tick through his creativity. Another is Roberto Pereyra – he finished the season in very good form so again if he is on song then he can be a real threat. Then there is the obvious one in Doucoure, our player of the season last year and a firm fan favourite, when he plays well Watford tend to.”
What are your opinions on Brighton’s heavy spending this summer and how do you think the Seagulls will do this season?
“I think Brighton will probably replicate what they did last season in terms of the main aim has to be survival first and then trying to finish as high up as possible. You guys have certainly brought in some reinforcements, which I think is key to your chances of survival. The second season always tends to be harder than the first so it was key that you freshened up the squad. The Seagulls have a top manager in Chris Hughton and I think you’ll stay up again this season.”
Are there any Brighton players that you feel Watford need to keep an eye on? Do
you expect to see another Britos v Knockaert battle?
We have signed a new left back over the summer, Adam Masina and from what I have seen of him I have been impressed. He is probably much more suited to dealing with Knockaert. I am sure Knockaert will be subject to his usual pantomime abuse. Personally I think he is a massive player for the Seagulls and always tends to play pretty well against us.
Where do you think Watford will end up this season?
If we keep the squad fit, I think we can honestly challenge to come in the top half of the table. However if we have the injury record we have had in the last two seasons then I fear for us this season. Signing a striker before the deadline would certainly bolster our chances of a successful season. On the whole I think it’s another season of finishing in mid-table.
Finally, what do you think the score will be on Saturday?
I will always back us at home so I will go with a tight 2-1 Hornets win.
**You can follow Adam on Twitter (@adzrowe) and read his own blog here: https://adamrowefootball.blogspot.com/.