WATFORD will look to build on Tuesday’s victory over Bristol City as they head to Bournemouth on Saturday with the rare opportunity of completing a league double.
It will be a tough test for Beppe Sannino’s men, with Eddie Howe’s Cherries possessing a impressive record at the Goldsands this season.
Four of the south coast outfit’s six Championship wins have come in front of their own supporters, with a two further cup victories at the Goldsands to boot.
Watford’s own away record has been better than at home throughout their recent struggle, with only two away defeats all season, the last of which came at Blackburn in October.
Sat in 16th with a nine point cushion between themselves and the relegation zone, the Hornets are only above the Cherries on goal difference.
It’s certainly fair to suggest that both sides have come back down to earth with a bump since the meeting at Vicarage Road back in August.
The Hornets were 6-1 winners that day, but at 1-1, it was the newly-promoted side who were on top before a flurry of three goals in 12 minutes put Watford out of reach.
It’s been a quiet transfer window for Bournemouth so far, with utility man Wes Fogden joining Portsmouth and forward Wes Thomas joining Rotherham United for an undisclosed fee following a whistle-top loan tour of the Football League.
The real news surrounds top-scorer Lewis Grabban – who struck at the Vic’ last August – and whether or not the Cherries will be able to keep their 10-goal striker at the Goldsands.
At 26, Grabban is something of a late bloomer, but the Croydon-born forward has repaid the faith that the Cherries showed in him when splashing out £300,000 in May 2013.
Twenty-three league goals in 62 starts is a decent return for the Crystal Palace trainee, who had never hit double figures in the league before a spell at Rotherham between 2011 & 2012.
Three separate loan spells at Brentford during the 2010/11 campaign brought Grabban seven goals in 20 starts, but it was his season with Rotherham where the 6ft forward made a name for himself.
Signed from arch-rivals Crystal Palace by Millwall for £150,000 in 2008, Grabban scored nine league goals in three years with the Lions before joining the Millers on a free transfer.
STOP PRESS: Grabban has been in talks with Brighton & Hove Albion since yesterday after Oscar Garcia triggered his £1.1m release clause, and Vital Watford understand that the forward will join the Seagulls later today (Friday).
Another man who will be similarly important in the club’s fight to retain their Championship status is winger Matt Ritchie, who has already scored five times in the league since making his return in late November.
Signed from League One rivals Swindon Town for £400,000 last January to help boost the Cherries’ promotion bid, Ritchie suffered a thigh problem in pre-season which, with the aid of several setbacks, delayed his arrival on the scene this season.
The 24 year-old began his career with south coast rivals Portsmouth, but made just three starts for Pompey and was loaned out to Dagenham & Redbridge, Notts County and Swindon (twice) before the Robins made the switch permanent.
Ritchie rewarded Swindon’s faith with a series of superb displays, scoring 23 times in 89 appearance during his two-year stay with the club.
Predominantly a left-sided player, Ritchie is also capable of playing on the right, or in the centre as an attacking midfielder, and his return of five goals in just nine starts since returning from injury underlines his importance to Howe.
Watford are without long-term absentees Essaid Belkalem, Tommie Hoban and Reece Brown, but Almen Abdi should make the 18 after getting on against Bristol City in midweek.
Alexander Merkel is suspended and Marco Cassetti is a doubt.
Similarly, Davide Faraoni and Ikechi Anya both made their returns from injury and the duo should start once more.
The main question is whether Sannino will prefer Diego Fabbrini or Fernando Forestieri up front.
Bournemouth: Camp; Francis, Cook, Ward, Daniels; Ritchie, O’Kane, Arter, Surman, Pugh; Grabban.
Watford: Almunia (c); Doyley, Angella, Ekstrand; Faraoni, McGugan, Iriney, Murray, Anya; Deeney & Forestieri.
Referee: Mr C Boyeson
Commentary: BBC Three Counties & Hornets Player
Highlights: The Football League Show (BBC1 @ 23.45) & Hornets Player