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1718 burnley turf moor 01 1000x500After a 0-0 draw at Southampton last week, we kick off our Premier League home programme tomorrow with the visit of Watford and it is not the first time they’ve been our opening home opponents to start a season.

Seven years ago we drew the opening game of the season against them. Watford actually led 2-0 with twenty minutes remaining with goals from Craig Forsyth and Mark Yeates but we rallied with two goals in the final 13 minutes with first Burnley goals for debutant Keith Treacy and Charlie Austin, both of whom had come on as substitutes. Eddie Howe was in charge of Burnley that day but Watford had a new man at the helm following the departure of Malky Mackay to Cardiff; it was Sean Dyche’s first fixture as a manager.

A lot of water has gone under a lot of bridges since. Dyche is just over two months from his sixth anniversary as Burnley manager whereas Javi Gracia is Watford’s ninth boss since Dyche departed in th e summer of 2012. Two clubs with entirely different set ups but both are working with the two clubs now enjoying a few years in the Premier League.

There was a time when I didn’t think Turf Moor would ever host a Premier League game but to be opening the doors for a third successive season is very special although it hardly seems as though it is going to be the first home game because of our involvement in the Europa League which has already seen us play two games at home.

We’ve another round to come too on the next two Thursdays but tomorrow it is very much concentrating on the Premier League and central defender James Tarkowski, who was in outstanding form a week ago at Southampton, is looking forward to the new season.

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“The club’s moving forward,” he said. “The team always needs to progress. You look at what other teams are spending and every club is looking to move forward. Last year was a great season for me personally, and for the team, but we don’t want to be a one season wonder  where people say Burnley were good that season and then fade away and no one talks about us again.

“We want to keep pushing and moving forward. I’m not saying we’ve got to finish sixth or fifth because we finished seventh last time, but as long as we feel as a group that we’re progressing and moving forward, that’s the most important thing.”

Tarkowski was left out of the Euro side two days ago as was his defensive partner Ben Mee who, as a matter of interest, made his Burnley debut in that game against Watford seven years ago. He’s the only player who was in the match day squad that day who is still with the club.

Despite the performances of Kevin Long and Ben Gibson, I expect both Tarkowski and Mee to play again tomorrow in what should be a much changed team. The injuries are, maybe, starting to clear up but there won’t be any more players available for this game. Steven Defour is still some time away but former Watford striker Matěj Vydra and Robbie Brady are pencilled in for under-23 action at Coventry on Monday as they get closer to full (Dyche) fitness.

I suspect the team is likely to be very similar to the one that drew at Southampton which was: Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Aaron Lennon, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Jeff Hendrick, Chris Wood.

That would leave the substitutes to come from Tom Heaton, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Ben Gibson, Charlie Taylor, Jon Walters, Dwight McNeil, Ashley Barnes, Sam Vokes.

Watford had a terrific start to last season. They won four of their first eight games, six in the first thirteen but then it started to go wrong and they won only a further five games. Much was put down to the unsettling of manager Marco Silva when Everton came chasing and they eventually sacked him in January, bringing in Javi Gracia. Their start meant they were never in any danger of going down and they ended the season in 14th place, some eight points clear of the bottom three.

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They’ve brought in seven new players during the summer, three of them from English clubs, including West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster who has played on the Turf for Watford previously. They’ve also signed former Everton wide man Gerard Deulofeu from Barcelona.

They kicked of the season with a 2-0 home win against Brighton. Both goals were scored by Roberto Pereyra (pictured) who also scored three of their last five goals in 2017/18, including the goal that gave them the lead against us at Vicarage Road before we turned things round to win 2-1 with Sam Vokes and Jack Cork on the scoresheet.

Like us, they have some injuries. They were without Deulofeu, former Burnley loan player Nathanial Chalobah, Tom Cleverley and Stefano Okaka. Gracia confirmed: “We have no news about injuries this week. The players who were injured last week still are so we haven’t recovered any players for this game.”

That suggests they will line up similarly to last week. Their team against Brighton was: Ben Foster, Daryl Janmaat, Craig Cathcart, Christian Kabasele, José Holebas, Will Hughes (Ken Sema 80), Abdoulaye Doucouré, Étienne Capouè, Roberto Pereyra (Kiko Femenía 86), Andre Gray (Isaac Success 74), Troy Deeney. Subs not used: Heurelho Gomes, Sebastian Prödl, Adrian Mariappa, Adam Masina.

 

LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE

 

Watford’s visit to Turf Moor last season came in December and the Lancashire weather was getting ready for Christmas with a bit of snow. We were getting a bit stretched defensively. Both Matt Lowton and Ben Mee were missing with Phil Bardsley and Kevin Long in the starting line up, and this was the first time we’d started without Robbie Brady who had been stretchered off at Leicester a week earlier. His place was taken by Scott Arfield for whom it proved to be a significant day.

They started the brighter of the two sides but nothing came of it and eventually, as the first half progressed, we came more and more into the game. Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson and Steven Defour were becoming increasingly influential.

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In those last few minutes of the half, the game was all but decided. Lee Probert sent off Marvin Zeegelaar for a four a foul on Defour and then, right on half time, we went in front. Guðmundsson was inevitably involved. He played the ball across the edge of the box for Jeff Hendrick who dummied to allow the ball to Arfield. He took the ball round Daryl Janmaat before playing the perfect shot into the far corner. It proved to be Arfield’s final goal for the Clarets in five years at Turf Moor, not the most memorable, clearly, but the last.

Watford rarely threatened a goal in the second half and it was Burnley who came closest with two further goals both ruled out for offside. The first from Cork was clearly onside and the second, scored by Barnes, fell into the trap of it coming off a defender who hadn’t deliberately played the ball.

But a 1-0 win it was, still seventh in the league and about to go up to fourth three days later.

The teams were;

Burnley: Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, James Tarkowski, Stephen Ward, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Steven Defour (Ashley Westwood 90+4), Jack Cork, Scott Arfield, Jeff Hendrick (Ashley Barnes 60), Chris Wood. Subs not used: Anders Lindegaard, Charlie Taylor, Fredrik Ulvestad, Nahki Wells, Sam Vokes.

Watford: Heurelho Gomes, Daryl Janmaat, Adrian Mariappa, Christian Kabasele, Marvin Zeegelaar, Abdoulaye Doucouré, Tom Cleverley, André Carillo (Andre Gray 79), Roberto Pereyra (José Holebas 44), Richarlison, Troy Deeney. Subs not use: Orestis Karnezis, Sebastian Prödl, Ben Watson, Isaac Success, Étienne Capouè.

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