February 02, 2016

Combustible and combative, Antonio Conte and Diego Costa seem tailor-made for each other to lead Chelsea back to glory after a disastrous title defence last season.

Looking to build on their season-opening victory, the Blues seek three more points at Vicarage Road, where Watford could be further bolstered by some reinforcements signed during the transfer window.

The former Juventus and Italian national team manager cut a frenetic figure in the coaches' box for his Chelsea debut. Conte cheered, chastised and cajoled as the Blues showed more passion in their opening 90 minutes than they did for much of the last campaign in their 2-1 victory Monday night over West Ham United.

Costa's goal in the 89th minute provided the three points and touched off a wild celebration in which Conte - in his customary black suit - sprinted down the sideline to join the party and hugged supporters. In many respects, both Costa and Chelsea were fortunate - the forward probably should have received a second yellow card for a late reckless challenge on Hammers goalkeeper Adrian before the goal.

And that came after Costa became the highest-profile player of the opening matchday to receive a caution under the stricter new rules regarding dissent to the officials. This figures to be an on-going concern given his sometimes petulant mannerisms.

Still, the big takeaway heading to Watford is Chelsea are playing Conte's style. He has deemed Eden Hazard pivotal to any success this season, and the Belgium international had plenty of influence in addition to his conversion from the penalty spot early in the second half. The ball is going to find him, and Conte is OK with aggressive errors in trying to find the midfielder in space.

Newcomer N'Golo Kante made a seamless transition into the midfield, where he partnered with Nemanja Matic in front of the back four. And all three substitutes had an impact, with debutant Michy Batshuayi providing the assist on Costa's winner.

"I'm delighted with the performance because I saw a lot of good things," Conte told Chelsea's official website. "There was great intensity and possession. Every manager when they arrive at a new club tries to bring their philosophy and we have been working with the players for only one month, but I am pleased."

Even with Costa finding the mark, Conte has not ruled out adding players before the transfer window closes. Cesc Fabregas did not play, and rumours persist Chelsea could make a play for Everton striker Romelu Lukaku.

"There are two weeks and we'll pay attention," he said, "if we find the right solution that's fine. The market is very crazy, the club know my ideas and it's important to find the right solution to improve this team, not buy for the sake of it.

While Conte is intimately familiar with Juventus, one of their players who arrived in Turin after he left to take over Italy could be in Watford's lineup Saturday. Midfielder Roberto Pereyra is reportedly close to signing with Watford in a deal that could be worth as much as £13 million. The Argentina international was loaned to Juve in 2014 from Udinese, who are owned by Giampaolo Pozzo - the father of Watford owner Gino Pozzo.

The prospects of having Pereyra in the hole behind forwards Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo has to be an enticing one for new Hornets manager Walter Mazzarri, who saw his team open the season with a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Southampton last Saturday.

Etienne Capoue scored early for Watford, lashing a right-footed volley from 10 yards following a well-placed header by Deeney. The Hornets, though, played the final quarter-hour with 10 men after substitute Ben Watston was given a direct red card for a challenge on Shane Long as the last man defending.

The Hornets also appeared to have made a successful transition to the 3-5-2 preferred by Mazzarri after utilising a 4-4-2 under predecessor Quique Sanchez Flores.

"There are different types of formation, but what is important is that the players follow my style of play," Mazzarri said through a translator post-match. "We have been practising with two different types of play. We played with one formation and it went well."

Ighalo had a quiet season debut with no shots shortly after signing a new five-year deal with the team. He scored 17 goals in 42 matches last season and has 37 in 81 contests since arriving from Udinese for the 2014-15 season.

The teams split points in both matches last season, playing out a scoreless draw at Vicarage Road in February after a 2-2 stalemate at Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day. Watford are winless in their last five (0-2-3) top-flight matches versus Chelsea and last eight overall (0-2-6) after a victory in the first Premier League match between the teams Sept. 18, 1999.

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