Watford start the New Year with a trip to the South Coast to face Portsmouth.
It’s been yet another season of toil on and off the field for Pompey who have seen financial meltdown loom once more and lose manager Steve Cotterill.
The Hampshire outfit currently sit in 18th, just one place and two points behind Sean Dyche’s Hornets.
New manager Michael Appleton will be keen to look to use January to strengthen a squad which remains paper-thin. The loss of West Brom loanee, George Thorne, who was re-called by the Baggies to cover an injury crisis has not aided the club.
It has only been seven games since Watford defeated Portsmouth 2-0 at Vicarage Road in what was Appleton’s first game in charge. Since then, the South Coast outfit have lost just once; a sequence that has seen them score a meagre six goals in the process however.
Whilst it’s clear where the frailty lies, it’s hard to see why. Up front the likes of Luke Varney and Dave Kitson are experienced Championship performers whilst African duo Benjani and Nwanko Kanu have bags of experience. Throw in the youthful yet exciting Ryan Williams and Marko Futacs and it looks like a strong collection of forwards.
However, a total of just 26 goals all season (down there with Watford), clearly indicates otherwise.
There are experienced creators in midfield to boot, the likes of which are more than capable of chipping in with goals themselves.
David Norris for example arrived on a free transfer from Ipswich Town this summer where he spent three years previously. The 30 year-old midfielder, capable of operating down the right or in the centre, made over 100 appearances for the Tractor Boys before heading south.
Since moving to Fratton Park, the former Plymouth favourite has notched five in 23 league starts and quickly set about establishing himself as a Pompey favourite.
Alongside Norris is another playmaker in Liam Lawrence. Poached from Stoke City last season – initially on-loan before making the move permanent in January.
The former Sunderland wideman has as yet failed to open his account for the season, firing blanks in each of his 17 league appearances this campaign. A set-piece specialist, it won’t be long before that run ends.
Another man who has set about grabbing goals from the middle of the park in Norway international, Eric Huseklepp.
Something of an unknown quantity when he signed from Italian outfit Bari in the August transfer window, the versatile 27 year-old has three for his new club so far.
Appleton has two of his key defenders suspended in Greg Halford and Joel Ward, meaning Aaron Mokoena should revert to right-back with veteran Icelander, Herman Hreidarsson coming in at centre-half. One of Varney or Huseklepp will fill in wide.
Watford say goodbye to Michael Kightly whose loan spell ends of January 3rd whilst Nyron Nosworthy plays his final league game for the club too.
Stephen McGinn (knee) and Martin Taylor (collarbone) are the only absentees for the ‘Orns who look likely to name the same XI that took apart Doncaster on New Years Eve.
Portsmouth: Henderson; Mokoena, Pearce, Hreidarsson, Mattock; Varney, Norris (c), Mullins, Lawrence; Futacs & Kitson.
Watford: Loach; Hodson, Nosworthy, Mariappa (c), Dickinson; Yeates, Hogg, Buaben, Kightly; Sordell & Deeney.
Match Officials: (R) Mr I Williamson; Mr W Bull & Mr P Knight; (4th) Mr A Nunn.