Palace at home – In Brief

April 21, 2019

A must win game especially with the spuds just losing the hardest of their remaining five fixtures. It’s given us the chance to go two points ahead if we can win and give them some cause for concern, while also giving us extra hope of seeing out these tricky aways we face on Wednesday and Sunday. After such a fine performance against Napoli, the lads should be feeling full of confidence – let’s forget the Watford match!

Laca wonders where the intimidating atmosphere of the San Paolo stadium has gone

Team news

Big Sok is serving the second game of his 2 match ban for being Greek. So, let’s put our hands together for squad player Shkodran. Three or four at the back? Three plus wingbacks would seem the best chance of providing the width necessary to get round the bus.

Granit is being assessed but maybe might not be risked if Matteo and the Terrier are both ready to go. So the midfield is sorted, with Guendouzi playing more in a deep Ramsey role with licence to roam forward a little, allowing the Terrier to excel at what he’s best at.     (Update: it would appear from Jeorge Bird on twitter that both Granit and the Terrier were in full training yesterday 🙂 )

Rambo is definitely out for an unspecified period. Home against Palace is, perhaps, the perfect scenario for Mesut, so he’ll probably start. Back at home we need the variety that the left and right side wing forwards Iwobi and Mkhitaryan bring, so maybe that’s the way to go. However, with Mesut to definitely start, means him playing central midfielder which is unlikely (assuming a centre forward is chosen to play).

Perhaps Auba or Laca will be given some pine time – Auba would be the popular choice. If he is, he’ll be itching to come on for a cameo 30 minutes and score a couple.

Our home record against Palace is pretty good but nothing can be taken for granted at this stage of the season. Townsend always plays better against us and Zaha, Benteke, Wickham and Batshitcrazy are all useful on their day.

Roy Wagnerson usually likes his teams to play some football so Palace may not be the most adept at parking the bus which might produce a game of decent football at the Emirates today.

Getty Images

Ant and me will be suitably enthusiastic about the match by the time our train gets into St Pancras (bang on time, hopefully) soon after 12.30pm.

Heaven knows how we’ll entertain ourselves at Finsbury Park in the intervening period before setting off for the ground!

COYRRG

chas

p.s. Let’s hope Everton are up for the game against the red mancs

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Napoli 0 Arsenal 1 – Player Ratings

April 19, 2019

The team selection looked ideal for an away game, compact in midfield and some heavy duty firepower up front to hopefully snatch that crucial away goal.

First Half

Napoli had a few half chances but many of their attacks were halted by the lino’s flag.

Rambo pinged a hammy and was replaced by Micki in preference to Mesut, presumably in the running about a lot stakes. Almost immediately Laca was fouled, a distance out from the Napoli goal. He stepped up, fooled the goalkeeper which side he was going and popped it over the wall into an empty net. 1-0 away from home and just what the doctor ordered.

Action Images via reuters

Napoli decided their best hope of getting back into the game was to blame the ref for their predicament in the hope of intimidating him into favouring them. During that first half he stood up superbly against their efforts.

Second Half

A couple of minutes after the restart Auba had the simplest of chances to make it 2-0 and take us completely out of sight. His 98% strike rate of early season has truly gone.

Napoli’s crossing, shooting and passing in the final third were so woeful during that second half that their best chance came when Nacho inadvertently diverted the ball towards his own net but Cech was right on the spot.

Highlight of the half was Big Sok telling Koulibaly that he was a cheating sod in Greek while making it look like he was counselling him on what a harsh world it is. Priceless.

Papa counsels Koulibaly

Conclusion

Excellent from The Arsenal.

Napoli’s first defeat at home to an English side and yet again we confounded expectations with a measured and controlled performance. Napoli were awful but let that not detract from a great team performance.

An away goal and a shut out – not many predicted that!

Valencia await in the semis.

Mertens thinks we weren’t very good. Ahem, we beat you both home and away without breaking sweat or conceding. I reckon you need to take a long hard look at yourself, pal.

Hopefully Rambo’s hammy doesn’t mean his Arsenal career is now over.

AFP- Getty Images

Ratings

Cech – great to see him kicking the ball rather than putting pressure on the defenders with that passing out from the back garbage – fine save from Monreal … 7

Maitland-Niles – a sound performance, covered well, attacked well, he continued his resurgent form since his ‘mare at Goodison … 8

Sokratis – a personal favourite – solid as a block of marble and with as much facial expression, though his counselling of Koulibaly was a joy to watch … 8

Koscielny – captain, my captain – class throughout … 8

Monreal – Nacho’s bandy legs covered a lot of turf and he played dependably … 8

Kolasinac – combative and useful in possession … 7

Torreira – terrier-like from first to last – was happy that there was a smaller player on the pitch … 8

Xhaka – did what was required before being subbed and his groin rested … 7

Ramsey – strived to create the goal which ironically came straight after he left the pitch … 7

Lacazette – looked fed up to go off – neither he nor Auba had held the ball up that well but it’s not their strength – ran his heart out … 7

Aubameyang – got better as the game went on – shame he missed the sitter … 7

Subs

Mkhitaryan – played reasonably well and nearly created that second goal with a timely challenge and then intuitive pass – so much better than Monday night (not that that was too difficult) … 6

Elneny – brought on to give Xhaka a rest – did what he’s good at … 6

Iwobi – presumably his ball retention skills were the reason for his appearance but couldn’t really hang on to it for long … 6

Managers

AP

Emery – superb – great team selection – outfoxed his opposing manager … 9

Wagnerotti – no answer to Arsenal’s superiority – bringing on a series of players whose final ball was just as poor as their predecessors was never going to work … 2

Ref – Pretty good game – not wanting to grab the limelight – Mike Dean take note, it’s not about you … 8

chas


Arsenal FC – Our away record against Napoli

April 17, 2019

We have only ever played one away game against Napoli – it was in Group F of the 2013/14 Champions League. We lost the game 0-2 after winning the home leg by the same score.

The San Paolo Stadium is a fearsome fortress and Napoli’s home record proves just how difficult this fixture will be for Arsenal.

Here is their home record for the last 9 seasons.

They possess a formidable home record in the league losing less than 2 games per season and they score an average of 3.29 goals per game while conceding only 1.39.

Their record against English sides at home is equally impressive with 4 wins, 2 draws and no defeats. In recent years, Liverpool managed a 0-0 while City, the chavs and us all lost. Perhaps it’s a record we can break just as in 2008 when we became the first English side to beat Milan in the San Siro.

Notice Carlo Wagnerotti in the background!

No matter how we look at it, we will find if very tough to get a result from this game but we are the Arsenal and it all depends on what version of our team shows up.

Two nil up after the first leg – what a strong position that is! An away goal will make a huge difference to the end result; that clean sheet at the Emirates may yet prove to be priceless. If we score, Napoli will need to score 4 to win the game. That thought will be in the backs of their minds constantly, gnawing away at their confidence to commit too many forward. What could possibly go wrong?

As a die hard gunner I never give up hope.

GunnerN5


Watford 0 Arsenal 1 – Player Ratings – Deeney’s Misdemeaney

April 16, 2019

A very interesting team selection – a back four with Mavro partnering Kos and Shkodran and Nacho full backs. Heavy duty midfield with Xhaka fit, Torreira back from the sin bin , Rambo, Wobbly and Micki. Will Unai have got the balance right to see us do better away from home?

First Half

What a peculiar half of football! Watford set off all guns blazing, right up for it to the point where they were always going to tempt the ref into how much rough stuff he was going to allow. I suppose they thought that at home they might get away with a bit more than elsewhere.

After a fiery start full of Watford bluster, Auba was so rapid closing down Foster, the keeper was unaware of the danger of his clearance being blocked. One nil and the simplest goal you’ll ever see. A definite contender for Goal of the Month.

Mr Troy Weiner’s moment of extreme stupidity came moments later. Obviously  still smarting from going behind, he swung an elbow at a much smaller man and had to see red. ‘But ref, we’re allowed to rough up Arsenal, every other team gets away with it.’ Both the Watford crowd and their players’ attempts to then paint Arsenal and Lucas Torreira as the villains of the piece from that moment onwards were laughable in the extreme.

To give their team credit, they made light work of the man disadvantage, still pressing for all they were worth and even had a scent of goal. Arsenal should have scored a second and third but couldn’t quite make the man advantage tell.

Second Half

Ozil for Torreira as a sub made sense in two respects – don’t give the ref a chance to even up the sides and let Mesut pick apart the team with a man short. Hmmmm. That was the plan?

To begin with the second period appeared to be a showcase for Mkhitaryan to illustrate how many ways he could screw up decent chances. The one on one with Foster was the worst – just take a touch and the keeper’s out of the picture.

Other chances came and went and Arsenal failed abysmally to make having the extra man pay.  Mavro was obviously match rusty, though replacing him with Guendouzi and going three at the back without wing backs was off the wall management. It didn’t work as Watford hit the bar amonfst other chances and eventually Maitland-Niles was brought on to give us a back four – Rambo getting a breather before Thursday.

Watford looked the most likely to score in the later stages which gives them great credit playing for so long understaffed. Thankfully we hung on to majestically cruise to victory with the early Auba screamer.

Conclusion

A pretty poor performance against a team which fought for its life. Still, there isn’t a Gooner in the world who wouldn’t accept the present of the 3 points from Misters Foster and Deeney. Up to fourth, what’s not to like and hopefully the away curse is broken!

Hopefully we’re saving better form and game management for Thursday.

Ratings

Leno – a great save from a Capoue free kick – thank heaven he stopped that ‘Jens shoving the striker’ bowlocks before he was penalised by the ref – gets an extra point for a clean sheet away from home which had become as rare as rocking horse excrement  … 8

Mustafi – regardless of what any fan thinks of Shkodran, Unai kept him on the pitch in a variety of roles and he didn’t let us down in any of them … 7

Koscielny – battered once again but such class … 7

Mavropanos – a few nervy moments which was understandable – he’ll get better with game time … 6

Monreal – like Mustafi, he was asked to play a number of roles and his covering is often superb – almost like a sweeper … 7

Xhaka – it was surprising that Granit couldn’t impose himself more on that depleted Watford side, though he wasn’t the only one … 6

Torreira – made some fine challenges after the elbow from Deeney, but taking him out of the danger zone at half time was a good move … 6

Ramsey – further forward in this game, Aaron was less effective strangely – it seemed as if the whole team had one foot on the plane to Italy … 6

Iwobi – Alex is so skilful he sometimes tricks himself – shame one of his many good runs couldn’t result in that crucial second goal … 7

Mkhitaryan – anonymous in the first half and then star of a poor finishing show in the second – I’d move him on in the summer if there are any takers … 4

Aubameyang – magnificent desire to block Foster’s clearance and then he spent the other 80 minutes trying to get on the end of a second – save one for Napoli, Pierre – that’s the ticket … 7

Subs

Ozil – didn’t really do what he was sent on the pitch to do … 6

Guendouzi – where was he playing? – I’ve really no idea, one moment in front of the back four then seconds later on the right wing? … 6

Maitland-Niles – added stability to the right flank but worrying that he thought he was a wing back – was he, wasn’t he? Who knows? … 7

Managers

Unai Emery – I wish I’d known about his crushing superiority (hex) over Gracia before – 6 wins and a draw out of 7 previous match ups. Substitutions were interesting to say the least – you can’t sniff at 3 points, a clean sheet and an away win though … 8

Javi Wagner – set his team up as far too aggressive and paid for it – bet they don’t think they can clatter into City at Wembley and get away with it … 4

Ref

Pawson – removed Deeney and then spent the rest of the game trying to appease Mike Riley by giving Watford a succession of unwarranted free kicks … 6

chas


The Siege of Troy – Watford preview

April 15, 2019

In Greek mythology, Trojan prince Paris abducted Helen of Sparta (who was already married) and it all kicked off. Ten years of war later, a trick involving a massive wooden horse full of soldiers finally ended the siege of Troy, amid scenes of ransacking, pillaging and destruction. Wouldn’t it be great if that was the match report for tonight’s game!

Monday Night Football – what joy!

After a weekend which saw …..

  • the spud reserves beat Huddersfield (who haven’t won a game on a Saturday for a whole year)
  • Man U undeservedly beat West Ham at the Old Cowshed (2 penalties, one which was completely ludicrous and a Hammers goal incorrectly ruled out for offside)
  • the chavs expectedly lost at Anfield – the Salah goal a thing of rare beauty

…..  and following our dreadful performance up in Liverpool last weekend, tonight’s game assumes even more significance in our attempts at CL qualification through League position.

Who’s available for the trip to Hertfordshire?

As far as team news goes, Papa is definitely out for tonight and also for Palace at home next weekend after picking up his 10th yellow of the season in the game at Goodison. At the opposite end of the suspension spectrum, Lucas Torreira can say hello again to his Premier League boots after finally finishing his 3 match ban for a supposedly dangerous tackle against the spuds in early March. Well, that’s if his slight niggle picked up against Napoli doesn’t mean he’s given extra recovery time before Thursday’s return leg in Italy, that is.

Xhaka is still being hampered by a troublesome groin (aren’t we all 🙂 ), but aside from that, team selection will see more juggling of squad members in an attempt to gain maximum advantage in both competitions. Our newly double-decaded Matteo Guendouzi may well start and should be raring to go.

Kos might need a rest if he’s to feature on Thursday, so Shkodran may come in as his replacement. Will Mesut and Aaron be rested also? It all depends on how Unai sees the big picture. Arsene was always slated when he fielded more squad players and results suffered but it really must be a tricky job to get the right balance. The manager will always field a team he believes is good enough to win if he can.

Mesut celebrates his goal in our 3-1 win at Vicarage Road in August 2016

As for Watford, maybe their eyes might be slightly distracted from the task in hand by the glittering prize of a Wembley appearance. No player ever wants to miss out and their mid-table League position is as secure as can be, though they are still in the hunt for 7th in the Prem and a possible Europa League spot.

The whole Deeney cojones thing is unhelpful in these circumstances because it seems to fire the opposition up in much the same way that the whole Stoke/Ramsey scenario often left us on the back foot.

Having said that, when Troy missed that penalty at the Emirates last season, it was definitely one of my mini highlights of last season. 🙂

Wagner has got the Hornets playing well, especially at Vicarage Road, so we will definitely have a game on our hands. In fact, they now seem like a side which has truly cemented its place in the Premier League. The first step towards greater achievements was the club reaching this season’s FA Cup Final. Who knows, they may well pull off a shock against the light blue Oilers – Wigan did.

Monday night football always makes it seem as though we’ve had a football-less weekend. The Newcastle home game 2 weeks ago went smoothly enough, as we might have expected with our excellent home form. But we really need to see something different in both tonight’s game and at Leicester away on Monday 29th April.

Things will seem a whole lot better if we can produce a performance worthy of the Club and banish our away day blues this season for good.

COYRRG

chas (BR is currently sipping Chianti in the cypress groves of Northern Italy)


Arsenal’s Century Club – Dennis Bergkamp

April 14, 2019

Nineteen players have achieved the feat of scoring 100 goals for the Club over the past 96 years. The players are sorted by the number of games taken to reach the 100 goal mark. DB10 sits at number 16.

Dennis Nicolaas Maria Bergkamp – Born: May 10, 1969 Amsterdam, Netherlands was the fourth of four sons. He was brought up in a working-class suburb; his father, who was an electrician, played amateur footballer in the lower leagues.

He was named in honour of Scottish striker Denis Law but in order to comply with Dutch given name customs, an extra “n” was inserted into his first name, by his father, after it was not accepted by the registrar.

Dennis Bergkamp outside Nicolaas Lyceum School age17

He was spotted by Ajax and was brought up through their famous youth system, joining the club at age 11 and making his professional debut on 14 December 1986. He scored his first senior goal for the club against HFC Haarlem on 22 February 1987 in a match Ajax won 6–0. He went on to make 23 appearances in the 1986–87 season, including a European debut against Malmö FF in the 1986–87 European Cup Winners’ Cup, Ajax won the competition, beating Lokomotive Leipzig 1–0.

In later seasons he established himself as a first-team player for Ajax. This culminated in a period of success for the club, which won the Eredivisie title in the 1989–90 season for the first time in five years. Dennis scored 29 goals in 36 games the following season and became the joint top goal scorer in the league. Ajax won the 1992 UEFA Cup Final, beating Torino through the away goals ruling. He was the top scorer in the Eredivisie from 1991 to 1993, and was voted Dutch Footballer of the Year in 1992 and 1993. In total, he scored 122 goals in 239 games for his hometown club.

Dennis attracted the attention of several European clubs as a result of his performances for Ajax. He was insistent on playing in Italy, as he considered Serie A “the biggest league at the time” and preferred a move to either Juventus or Internazionale. On 16 February 1993, he agreed a £7.1 million move to Internazionale and made his debut against Reggiana on 29 August 1993.

In his first two seasons at Internazionale, the club changed managers twice and Dennis had a difficult time, troubled with stress injuries and fatigue from the 1994 World Cup, he only scored five goals in 26 appearances. Off the field, his relationship with the Italian press and fans became uncomfortable. His shy persona and his propensity to go home after matches were interpreted as apathy. Because of his poor performance on the pitch, one Italian publication renamed their award given to the worst performance of the week, L’asino della settimana (Donkey of the Week) to Bergkamp della settimana.

Dennis left Internazionale and signed with Arsenal in June 1995 for a transfer fee estimated at £7.5 million. He became manager Bruce Rioch’s first signing at Arsenal and broke the club’s transfer fee record of £2.5 million. On the opening day of the 1995–96 league season, he made his full debut against Middlesbrough. He struggled to adapt to the English game and failed to score in the club’s next six league matches, prompting ridicule by the national press. A brace against Southampton at Highbury broke the spell and he ended his first season with 33 appearances and a goal tally of 11.

The appointment of Arsène Wenger as Arsenal manager in September 1996 marked a turning point in his career. Wenger, who had moderate success coaching in France and Japan, recognised his talent and wanted to use him as a fulcrum of the team’s forward play. Both were advocates of a continental style of attacking football, and Dennis was happy with Arsene’s decision to impose a strict fitness and health regime.

Despite making fewer appearances in the 1996–97 season, he was more influential in the first team, creating 13 assists. The following season he was instrumental in helping Arsenal complete a domestic league and cup double. He became the club’s top scorer with 22 goals and recorded a strike rate of 0.57.  In 1997/8 he was the recipient of the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award, becoming only the second foreign player to be recognised by his fellow professionals as the outstanding performer in English football.

Bronze award in the 1997 FIFA World Player of the Year award. Tied in 3rd place with Zinedine Zidane, behind Ronaldo in 1st and Roberto Carlos 2nd!

After 3 seasons of finishing second, more success finally came in the 2001–02 season. Arsenal regained the league, beating Manchester United at Old Trafford in the penultimate game of the season to complete the club’s second double under Wenger; Arsenal defeated Chelsea 2–0 to win the FA Cup four days prior. Dennis played in 33 league matches, setting up 15 goals.

After a 3 game red card suspension he made his return against Newcastle United on 3 March 2002. Early in the match, Arsenal midfielder Robert Pirès played a low pass from the left flank to Denis in the edge of the opponent area with his back to goal. Under pressure from his marker Nikos Dabizas, he controlled the ball with one flick and went around the other side before placing the ball precisely into the bottom right-hand corner to score. Arsene described the goal as “unbelievable”, adding “It was not only a magnificent goal but a very important one – I enjoyed it a lot”

Dennis reached a personal landmark during the 2002–03 season, scoring his 100th goal for Arsenal against Oxford United in a FA Cup third-round tie. On 20 July 2003, he signed a one-year extension at the club. The 2003–04 season ended on a high point as Arsenal reclaimed the league title, becoming the first English team in more than a century to go through the entire domestic league season unbeaten. He committed himself to Arsenal at the end of the season, signing a further extension to his contract.

The team finished fourth in the league in his final season at Arsenal. After much campaigning from Arsenal supporters, the club designated one of its Highbury match day themes, organised to commemorate the stadium’s final season as home of Arsenal, to Dennis Bergkamp. “Bergkamp Day” took place on 15 April 2006 It celebrated his contribution to Arsenal; fans were given commemorative orange ‘DB10’ T-shirts – the colour of his national team, his initials and his squad number. Dennis came on as a second-half substitute and set up the winning Pirès goal moments after Nigel Quashie had levelled the score. Fittingly, his 89th-minute goal proved to be his last for Arsenal in competitive football.

He was the focus of the first match at Arsenal’s new ground, the Emirates Stadium. On 22 July 2006, a testimonial was played in his honour at the new stadium as Arsenal played his old club Ajax.

International Career

Dennis made his international debut for the Netherlands national team against Italy on 26 September 1990. He was selected for Euro 1992, where his national team were the defending champions. Although he impressed, scoring three goals in the tournament, the team lost on penalties to eventual champions Denmark. In the qualification for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, hep scored five goals and was selected for the finals, staged in the United States. He featured in every game for the national team, getting goals against Morocco in the group stages and the Republic of Ireland in the round of 16.

Against Wales in the 1998 FIFA World Cup qualification on 9 November 1996, he scored his first hat-trick for the national team. The Netherlands finished first in their group and qualified for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, held in France. Dennis scored three times in the competition, including a memorable winning goal in the final minute of the quarterfinal against Argentina. He took one touch to control a long 60-yard aerial pass from Frank de Boer, brought the ball down through Argentine defender Roberto Ayala’s legs, and finally finished by firing a volley with the outside of his right foot, past the keeper at a tight angle from the right, he described the goal as his personal favourite in his career.  His international career ended with 37 goals in 77 appearances.

Honours

In April of 2007, he was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame by viewers of BBC’s Football Focus. A year later, he was voted second by Arsenal fans behind Thierry Henry in a list of the 50 Gunners Greatest Players.

This is a summary of his achievements in chronological order:

Dutch Football Talent of the Year (1): 1990

Dutch Footballer of the Year (2): 1991, 1992

Eredivisie Top Scorer (3): 1990–91, 1991–92, 1992–93

UEFA European Football Championship Top Scorer (1): 1992

UEFA European Football Championship Team of the Tournament (1): 1992

World’s Top Goal Scorer of the Year (1): 1992

UEFA Cup Top Scorer (1): 1994

Premier League Player of the Month (4): August 1997, September 1997, March 2002, February 2004

PFA Team of the Year (1): 1997–98

FWA Footballer of the Year (1): 1997–98

PFA Players’ Player of the Year (1): 1997–98

Premier League Goal of the Season (2): 1997–98, 2001–02

FIFA World Cup All-Star Team (1): 1998

FIFA 100

English Football Hall of Fame

His statue now stands outside Emirates Stadium honouring him as one of Arsenal’s legends.

GunnerN5


Arsenal FC – Our away record against Watford

April 13, 2019

The beginnings of the club can be traced back to 1881, when Watford Rovers was formed by Henry Grover and a group of fellow teenagers who had been given permission by the Earl of Essex to kick a football around in Cassiobury Park. Friendly matches began in 1882, with various sites in the town being used for matches. The first competitive game was an FA Cup tie against Swindon Town in 1886. In 1890 West Herts Club and Ground was set up in Cassio Road (where it remains to this day) and Watford Rovers moved in as the football section, changing name to West Herts in 1893.

Watford joined the Football League in 1920. The club played at several grounds in its early history, before moving to a permanent location at Vicarage Road in 1922, where it remains.

Vicarage Road 1932

One of the most successful periods for the club was when they were managed by ex England manager Graham Taylor who took charge of Watford in 1977. He led the club to promotion to the Third Division in 1978, the Second Division in 1979, and the First Division for the first time in Watford’s history in 1982. After a second-placed finish in the First Division in 1983, Watford competed in European competition for the first time in 1983–84, as well as reaching the 1984 FA Cup final.

Taylor left the club at the end of 1986–87. Under the six subsequent permanent managers Watford slid from 9th in the top tier in 1987, to 13th in the third tier in 1997. Taylor returned as manager for the start of the 1997–98 season. He led the club to consecutive promotions, but could not prevent relegation from the Premier League in 1999–2000. Since Taylor’s retirement in 2001, Watford has had sixteen different managers. The current manager is Javi Gracia he was hired in 2018 and has a contract until 2023.

Watford is owned by the Pozzo family, which also owns Udinese Calcio in Italy and previously Granada CF in Spain. Sir Elton John, who owned Watford during both of Graham Taylor’s successful periods as manager, served alongside Taylor as the club’s joint Honorary Life President until 2008, only to later resume the role he shared alongside Graham Taylor until Taylor’s death. Sir Elton John’s seven year old son Zachary signed up for the academy team at Watford Football Club in 2018.

This was always going to be a difficult away game but Watford will be flying high after their amazing comeback in the FA Cup semi final so it will now be even tougher.

Here are our away game statistics against Watford.

 

Getty Images

We need a positive result but will our team be up to the task?

GunnerN5