WATFORD entertain Leicester on Saturday. Matthew Kirby (@M_Kirby95) delivers his betting analysis.
Watford v Leicester | Saturday 14th March 2020, 12:30 | BT Sport
Leicester tightened their grip on third place after dismantling Midlands rivals Aston Villa 4-0 on Monday night. Jamie Vardy came off the bench to end his drought to score a double.
Being the early game gives them the advantage to extend their lead on the chasing pack, although it looks like a battle of fourth is ensuing more than anything.
Watford have their own matters to attend to. And that’s keeping their head above water. The sharks are circling, but they’re just about managing it – albeit on goal difference.
The Hornets do look to have a favourable run-in with Norwich, Newcastle and West Ham just three teams they have to play, but it’ll be their form here at Vicarage Road, which could prove decisive.
Key players returning
The win over Villa saw a welcome return to the fold for Wilfred Ndidi, who started his first game since the beginning of December. 50 passes completed, 13 ball recoveries (the most), four tackles made and three interceptions (most) saw why he was so badly missed.
His screening of the two centre-halves is a big help, plus his presence helps free up those around him. On Monday, it was James Maddison and Dennis Praet that benefited before Youri Tielemans came off the bench.
Not only did Ndidi return, but so did Vardy. He missed the trip to Norwich through injury and, to be honest, Leicester looked rather blunt until Pepe Reina’s error gifted Harvey Barnes the opener.
When Vardy came on, he looked lively. It’s the spaces he finds in the area that cause opposition defences so many problems, so Craig Cathcart and Christian Kabasele will have to be on guard.
Hornets to show fight?
In their last home game, Watford ended Liverpool’s unbeaten run, and they did it in style. However, it was marred by the season-ending injury to Gerard Deulofeu.
The Spaniard being out is a big blow to Nigel Pearson. He’s their most creative player – he’s had the most shots (64) and most shots on target (21). They’ll also miss his creativity with him having registered five assists – another most for Watford.
That’s likely to mean a lot of pressure on Ismaila Sarr. He’s only had 13 starts, so five goals and three assists isn’t too bad. He has caught the eye this season as an exciting prospect in a rather dull Hornets side.
There will no doubt be space for him to exploit with whoever starts at left-back likely to get forward at every available opportunity.
Since Pearson has come in, there’s been a slightly more advanced role for Abdoulaye Doucouré, which has seen him recording a few shots on goal. If he can evade Ndidi, then the powerful Frenchman is worth considering in those markets. He’s had at least two shots in each of his last five games.
Both Hornets full-backs, Kiko Femenia and Adam Masina are both worth looking at in the tackles market. This hasn’t been priced up at the time of writing, but Femenia made eight against Wilfried Zaha and Palace last weekend, while Masina made four from six attempted.
Moroccan Masina has some impressive figures in recent weeks. In his last five games, he’s made 17 tackles, so an average of 3.4 per game. It’ll be worth taking any odds-against price for 3+ tackles.
The betting angles
At the time of writing, there are no player props markets priced up, but there are still two angles that look good. Both are doubles put together in Bet Builders that come out at appealing prices. The first is Over 4 Leicester Corners and Over 0 Leicester Goals at 11/10.
I did look at the Over 10 Corners at evens with Bet 365, but the argument for that is based on the overloads that the Foxes create out wide. Monday’s game saw them take all nine corners, while their trip to Norwich did see 13, so it’s something to consider again.
Leicester average 5.1 corners in away games and they’ve taken more than four corners in 11/14 away games. They hit exactly four away at Sheffield Utd, while the other two games were trips to Man City and Wolves.
As I’ve said above and in previous pieces on Leicester, they like to play with width with the full-backs overlapping and getting up to support the likes of Harvey Barnes and Ayoze Perez, which generally forces corners.
Adding the Leicester goal boosts the price from 8/13 to 11/10 and it’s hard not seeing the visitors beating Ben Foster. They were irresistible in the closing stages against a sorry-looking Villa.
Jamie Vardy is back scoring, while the two goals for Harvey Barnes will have helped his confidence no end and he’s a player to look at for here. At 9/2 anytime, he is generally the one that goes under the radar. Given he went on a three-game scoring streak the last time he notched, there’s a chance of him going on a similar run.
The other Bet Builder involves cards. Stuart Attwell is the man in the middle and he’s dished out 104 yellows and three reds in 21 games in all competitions. In the Premier League, he averages 4.33 yellow per game, which is the second-highest of the referees to have taken charge of 10 or more games – only behind Mike Dean (4.55pg).
It’s his first involvement with both of these sides this season, but Watford (61) trail the two North London clubs (63) in terms of yellow cards.
Eight of Watford’s last 10 home games have seen them get two or more cards, and it’s 10 from 14 under Pearson’s stewardship. Both full-backs are candidates for cards. Only Bet365 have prices, so shop around. Masina is 11/4 and Femenia at 6/1.
Leicester have been well-disciplined this season, but they did manage to get two cards against Villa. Even though the physical battle Jonny Evans and Çaglar Söyüncü will face up against Troy Deeney should suit, it’s the midfield areas with Ndidi and maybe Praet that are most likely to collect the card.
So, backing Watford for over one card and Leicester to pick up just one comes out just at a shade below evens, which looks big given the man with the cards. If you want something bigger, then it’s 2/1 for Over 1 Card for both teams.