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Tottenham Hotspur-Watford Preview
Looking to further separate themselves from the bottom three, resurgent Watford chase another three points Saturday when they host injury-ravaged Tottenham Hotspur at Vicarage Road.
Nigel Pearson has performed an admirable rescue job as Watford's third manager of the term succeeding the sacked Javi Gracia and Quique Sanchez Flores. After losing to Liverpool in his touchline debut, the Hornets (5-7-10) have gone unbeaten in six in all competitions (4-2-0), and the 13 points accrued in their last five league matches have them 17th in the table on 22 points, trailing West Ham on goal difference but still only six points out of a top-half spot.
Looking to further spur Watford's push is new signing Ignacio Pusetto, who put pen to paper on a 4 ½-year deal Tuesday and has impressed in his short time around his new team following his arrival from Udinese.
"He's decent," said Ben Wilmot, who played with Pusetto at Udinese last season, to Watford's official website. "He's lively and will bring energy to the team. He can play on the wing, down the middle, is decent with both feet, a good finisher and will shoot on sight. He's got pace about him and is a decent tricky little player. He's a bit different and has got a bit of everything. He's not lightning quick like Gerard [Deulofeu], but he's got energy and works really hard. He'll bring something else to the team we haven't got. It's a very good signing."
Watford are seeking their first four-match winning streak in league play since opening last term with the maximum 12 points and are coming off a 3-0 thrashing of Bournemouth at Dean Court last Sunday. Abdoulaye Doucoure, Troy Deeney, and Roberto Pereyra provided the goals while Ben Foster needed to make only one save for his third clean sheet in five league contests.
"We did what we had to do to win the game and I think that's the important thing from our own perspective. We're finding different solutions in games and different ways of winning them," Pearson observed.
"There are times we've played some really good football and won games, and then today was an example of when we showed quite a bit of resilience and game understanding but also using our quality when we could."
Watford also caught a bit of a break for this match when their FA Cup replay versus Tranmere Rovers was postponed due to an unplayable pitch. The match was rescheduled for Thursday at the League Two side as they look for a spot opposite Manchester United at home Jan. 26 in the fourth round.
Tottenham Hotspur were able to play their third-round replay Tuesday, edging Middlesbrough 2-1 on goals by Giovani Lo Celso and Erik Lamela in the opening quarter-hour. The Lilywhites saw off a late push from the 'Boro as their injury woes resulted in Jose Mourinho needing nearly all of his first-team players to log minutes.
"[Hugo] Lloris was a long injury, then Harry [Kane], then Moussa [Sissoko], Ben Davies, everything is long," Mourinho told The Times. "It's not like you are waiting for somebody to come back next week, or Sissoko in two weeks; it's not in two weeks, it's in three or four months. Who knows, maybe only next season, so it's difficult."
Kane, of course, is the biggest absence, with the England and Spurs talisman out until at least April with a torn hamstring. Mourinho also noted Sissoko could also be out for the remainder of the term, two huge blows for the Champions League runners-up as they try to stay in the mix for a top-four spot.
Club chairman Daniel Levy did open the pursestrings to a degree, signing 21-year-old Gedson Fernandes on loan from Benfica on Wednesday. The midfielder has a pair of caps with Portugal to his credit as well as a league title with the Portuguese club and is looking to make an impact as he was reunited with his family, who moved to London for employment opportunities.
"I know the squad because I've watched some games, I have some references like Moussa Sissoko, I know a little bit about Eric Dier because he played in Portugal and I know the coach (Jose Mourinho) because he's a big coach," Fernandes said. "I know about the staff (Assistant Head Coach Joao Sacramento and Goalkeeper Coach Nuno Santos) a little bit as well because one of my friends last year played at (their former club) Lille, so he spoke with me a little bit about the staff.
"This is a fantastic challenge that I have accepted and I have to win my challenge. I want to make good things - let's see!"
Wantaway midfielder Chrstian Eriksen continues to be linked with a move to Inter Milan for former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte as Spurs try to recoup some value for the Denmark international, who is out of contract at season's end but also free to negotiate now with other clubs. Danish media outlet Ekstra Bladet is reporting Spurs and Inter are close to agreement on a £20 million move that would allow Eriksen to join them straightaway.
The teams played to a 1-1 draw in north London in October as Dele Alli's goal four minutes frm time canceled out a first-half marker by Doucoure. Watford's lone win in 16 matches across all competitions (1-5-10) in the Premier League era came in last season's fixture at Vicarage Road, rallying for a 2-1 victory on goals by Deeney and Craig Cathcart after an own goal by Doucoure.
Updated January 16, 2020