For some, the international break has been nothing more than a nuisance. An extended gap between fixtures has done considerable damage to the momentum built up by the Championship’s inform sides, while some have had to watch the international matches with everything crossed in the hope their star men don’t suffer injury. Igor Vetokele is only just being allowed to remove himself from the bubble wrap he was sent away in.
But, for others, the international break has been a welcome relief. With performances not quite perfect, and points not being picked up, the two week interval has given some of the early season strugglers the chance to iron out a few creases. It’s even given a handful of new managers the opportunity to get to grips with their side and have it suitable moulded into their style.
For the two sides contesting at The Valley this Saturday, it’s somewhere in the middle.
This is, after all, a game between second place Watford and sixth place Charlton. Two sides that largely impressed before the division took its annual early September leave. Two sides that had momentum, packed with players in imperious form.
But, for Charlton, signs of frailties had been shown in a week of away fixtures prior to the international break, while Watford’s Giuseppe Sannino, amidst rumours of an unsettled dressing room, opted to walk away from Vicarage Road despite a clear harmony on the pitch.
It’s meant that Addicks boss Bob Peeters has had the chance to work on Charlton’s faults (that is when his side haven’t been bumping into Diego Simeone) while new Hornets gaffer Oscar Garcia has had the opportunity to instil his methods into his new side.
With that in mind, as is always the case in fixtures between these two sides, we’ve got a competitive and exciting game on our hands.
LAST MEETING – Charlton Athletic 3-1 Watford
On one of those special nights under The Valley’s floodlights, an inspired display from the Addicks saw them beat Watford 3-1 to maintain their Championship status in the penultimate game of last season.
There was a minor scare for Charlton when Troy Deeney’s sensational strike pulled the visitors level at the start of the second half, but there was only going to be one winner after skipper Johnnie Jackson put the hosts back in front with just over 20 minutes to play.
And, having scored the first goal of the night, Callum Harriott’s sweetly struck volley doubled Charlton’s advantage to spark relief-filled celebrations.
With just one league defeat, the only other game they’ve failed to win so far this campaign coming in a League Cup tie at home to Doncaster, the Hornets have started the season in excellent form.
Not only are they winning, but they’re winning well. A 4-1 win over Leeds United was followed by a 4-2 win over Huddersfield Town, and the Hornets won’t be as forgiving as Charlton’s previous opposition if defensive uncertainty is again shown by those in red.
However, there’s still some doubt over just how good Watford are away from Vicarage Road, regardless of their 2-0 victory over Rotherham at the New York Stadium. Last season, the Hornets won just four times in the league away from home, and a 3-0 defeat to Norwich at Carrow Road in their first away game this campaign suggests those frailties on their travels haven’t quite vanished.
After an incredible start to the season, Charlton supporters have been brought back down to earth somewhat. A fortunate draw against Huddersfield, a disappointing performance in defeat to Derby County in the League Cup and defensive errors leading to conceding a last minute equaliser against Brighton have at least alerted fans to the fact their side isn’t invincible.
Nonetheless, the Addicks remain undefeated in the league, boast an excellent home record and have the Championship’s Player of the Month in Igor Vetokele. As Wigan Athletic and Derby have found, playing against Vetokele and his teammates at The Valley is no easy task.
Whether it be Gianfranco Zola or Sannino in charge, the Hornets have pleased the easily entertained minds of football hipsters by using a 3-5-2 formation.
Given Watford’s start to the season, and the players available, it would make sense for new boss Oscar Garcia to continue using the set-up favoured by his Italian predecessors.
But the Spaniard may wish to stamp his own mark on his new side, making it somewhat difficult to predict how Watford will line-up at The Valley.
They will, however, be without Gabriel Tamas, after the defender was sent off in the victory over Huddersfield. Homegrown centre back Tommie Hoban is in line to replace the Romanian.
Elsewhere, Lloyd Dyer and Matej Vydra, benched under Sannino, may be hopeful of a recall with Garcia in charge, but they’ll do well to dislodge regular Charlton tormentor and inform Fernando Forestieri and Ikechi Anya, full of confidence after scoring for Scotland against Germany during the international break.
The protective bubble wrap Charlton placed their international players in as they departed for international duty didn’t quite do its job, with Johann Berg Gudmundsson missing Iceland’s win over Turkey through injury.
It means the winger is a doubt for Saturday’s clash, with Lawrie Wilson and new signing Frederic Bulot competing to fill the void should Gudmundsson be unavailable.
But the Addicks are likely to be otherwise unchanged, with Peeters hoping a return to The Valley will see his side return to their very best form after an indifferent week before the international break.
KEY BATTLE – PROLIFIC FORWARD VS LEAKY DEFENCE
There’s no doubting that Saturday’s clash will see two of the best forwards in the division go head-to-head. Deeney showed how capable he is of the extraordinary in Watford’s visit to The Valley last season, while Igor Vetokele’s five goals in his first five Charlton games won him the Player of the Month award.
It’s also the case that both sides are far from perfect at the back. Charlton are yet to keep a clean sheet in the league this season, while only the Addicks have conceded more than Watford among those teams in the top half of the division.
In what promises to be a competitive game, it’s likely to be the case that there won’t be much to choose between either side in the overall run of play. Instead, the victor will be the one that tightens up at the back and limits the opposition’s forward to the fewest clear cut chances.
Vetokele Vs Deeney? These two teams are much better than solely being reliant on one individual, but the two will play a huge role in deciding the outcome of the game.
Even with uncertainty over how Watford will respond to a change of manager, suggestions of disharmony under Sannino implies the Hornets are capable of performing to a high standard regardless of who’s in charge.
A performance similar to the one put in by Charlton in their win over Derby will be needed if they’re to get anything out of this one. But it’s not like the result matters, not when we’re all getting a free sticker album this weekend.
Charlton Athletic 2-2 Watford