Watford-West Brom Preview
Mid-table mediocrity is a welcome sight for both West Bromwich Albion and Watford as they prepare to meet at The Hawthorns on Saturday.
Both clubs were tipped as possible relegation candidates prior to the start of the Premier League season, but Watford are 11 points clear of the drop zone with six games remaining, while West Brom are one place higher in the table in 14th and two points better off.
And securing survival with so much time remaining is something West Brom boss Tony Pulis believes is something to celebrate ahead of a clash with Watford that counts for little more than where in mid-table the two clubs will finish.
"When you look at the Villa's, Newcastle's, Sunderland's down there, how big those clubs are, for us to be on 40 points and mid-table, the players have done fantastic," said the former Stoke and Crystal Palace boss.
"I think all the way through my career the one thing I've wanted is players that have a go and run around," he added. "There has to be improvement within the team for next year, and I don`t think anybody could argue with that, but the players have been fantastic this year."
Pulis' West Brom (10-10-12) have gone three games without a win and may be missing striker Salomon Rondon after he picked up a knock early in last weekend's 2-1 defeat to Manchester City. Chris Brunt and James Morrison remain unavailable with long-term injury problems.
The Baggies lack a cutting edge without Rondon, with normal wide midfielder Saido Berahino looking uncomfortable leading the line, adding further weight to the claims that Pulis' side are unattractive to watch.
West Brom have scored just 50 goals in 50 league games under Pulis and have the oldest average age for a starting XI in the top-flight this season. However, Saturday's visiting manager Quique Sanchez Flores is looking forward to taking on the "British" Baggies.
"They are playing with a very British style, they are very compact, they reduce the space, they use very well the long-ball and set-pieces, so I know the opponent we are going to find and we will try to play well," the Watford manager said. "I think it's amazing for the Premier League to have these kind of variants because the styles are completely different.
"You need to manage things different, you need to plan different, but it's perfect. There are different cultures, different nationalities, different mentalities, and this is very good for the Premier League."
Watford are without a win in six games and last weekend's 1-1 draw with Everton was the club's first point since February. The Hornets had overachieved before this dry spell, and the hope is they rediscover their FA Cup form as they prepare to face Crystal Palace in the semifinals at Wembley Stadium next week.
The Hornets have scored just seven goals in 2016 as their form has slipped alarmingly, but the 11-point cushion between themselves and 18th-placed Sunderland should be more than enough to secure survival.
West Brom have not lost any of the last 15 league meetings (8-7-0) with Watford and have scored 21 goals in their last seven games against the Hornets at the Hawthorns. Watford's last victory over the Baggies came in the 2003 FA Cup.