With one last round of fixtures before 2018 shuts up shop, the Premier League will be looking to sign off on another brilliant year with some early fireworks ahead of the new year.
For Watford and Newcastle though, both will be preoccupied with matters slightly further ahead of the curve as they enter the second half of the campaign.
Javi Gracia’s Hornets are an outside bet to secure a seat in European football for next season, should they keep up their good form through to May and other results go their way.
Rafa Benitez’s Magpies on the other hand are looking to avoid being sucked into a relegation battle once more, with the Spaniard looking to steer his black-and-white ship out of choppier waters.
It’s shaping up to be a great 2019 – but will either of these two sides be where they want to be in the coming weeks?
|Game||Watford vs Newcastle United|
|Date||Saturday, December 29|
|Time||3:00pm GMT / 10:00am ET|
TV Channel, Live Stream & How To Watch
In the United States (US), the game will not be broadcast but will be streamed on NBC Sports Gold.
|US TV channel||Online stream|
|N/A||NBC Sports Gold|
In the UK, the game will be not broadcast or streamed. Goal will however be providing minute-by-minute live text coverage of the game.
|UK TV channel||Online stream|
Squads & Team News
|Defenders||Femenia, Kabasele, Cathcart, Holebas, Mariappa, Masina|
|Midfielders||Sema, Doucoure, Capoue, Pereyra, Cleverley, Quina|
|Forwards||Deulofeu, Deeney, Success, Okaka|
Watford are still missing Andre Gray up front, as well as Will Hughes and Adalberto Penaranda, but otherwise, Javi Gracia will likely keep faith with the same side that lost to Chelsea last time out.
Troy Deeney will lead the attack up front while leading goalscorer Roberto Pereyra will be looking to continue his good form for the Hornets.
Possible Watford XI: Foster; Femenia, Kabasele, Cathcart, Holebas; Sema, Doucoure, Capoue, Pereyra; Deulofeu, Deeney.
|Position||Newcastle United players|
|Defenders||Yedlin, Lascelles, Fernandez, Dummett, Ritchie, Schar, Manquillo|
|Midfielders||Ki, Diame, Atsu, Perez, Kenedy, Hayden, Murphy, Longstaff|
|Forwards||Rondon, Muto, Joselu|
Having played a 5-3-2 formation against league leaders Liverpool - and having been given a 4-0 hiding as a result - Rafa Benitez may opt to switch back to a 4-2-3-1 formation for the trip south.
Jonjo Shelvey, Ciaran Clark and Karl Darlow all look set to remain absent with various injuries.
Possible Newcastle United XI: Dubravka; Yedlin, Lascelles, Fernandez, Dummett; Ki, Diame; Atsu, Perez, Kenedy; Rondon.
Betting & Match Odds
Watford are 17/20 favourites to win the match at bet365. Newcastle can be backed at 3/1, while a draw is priced at 13/5.
Halfway through the Premier League campaign and the various narratives across the top tier of English football are beginning to take shape.
For Watford, under Javi Gracia, it is a question of whether the Hornets can transform themselves into genuine European contenders following Marco Silva’s departure last season.
For Newcastle, under Rafa Benitez, it’s whether the Champions League-winning Spaniard can keep the Magpies at the high table once more – or if he will make his exit before this story concludes.
As such, the pair’s meeting at Vicarage Road, for the final game they will both play in 2018, brings with it different challenges for both sides as they look to achieve their goals over the rest of the season.
Watford and Newcastle will be looking to sign off with victory ahead of the new year too, after the former fell to Chelsea and the latter were routed by league leaders Liverpool.
Roberto Pereyra, playing wide for the Hornets, could prove to be a decisive figure in the game – but Martin Dubravka, in goal for the Magpies, has proven himself the equal of many attackers this season, even when his defence has not.
The hosts should prevail with the three points here, to pile the pressure on the visitors, yet football sometimes works in mysterious ways – and perhaps Benitez has a trick up his sleeve to belatedly kickstart his side’s survival.