Stoke City and Watford meet for a crucial Premier League fixture on Wednesday evening each under the leadership of new managers. Both sides are currently on a worrying run of form, although the Potters have a 2-0 victory against Huddersfield Town and a significantly improved display from their last match to give them encouragement.
After starting the new campaign confidently and playing some wonderful football, Watford now find themselves 10th, just four points above the bottom three having lost eight of the last eleven league games.
It is not just their form that will worry new manager Javi Garcia, but the lack of an attacking edge and their inability to keep clean sheets in recent weeks to help them get over the line in games.
Paul Lambert's Stoke were a revelation in the recent Terriers' match and have surprised many with their reinvigorating performance. He will be eager for his team to maintain their momentum as they head into this crucial encounter.
The Potters have slightly refined their playing style and formation from under the stewardship of Mark Hughes, combining the long ball with some tidy football and they got the rewards with a precious victory. Another win will pull them further away from the bottom three and boost the hopes of their raucous home supporters of Premier League survival.
Stoke City 0-4 Watford (September, 1983)
The youngest Watford side ever to go into League battle chalked up their first away win of the campaign and the biggest away success in their short Division One history.
That they swept aside an experienced and ultimately lacklustre Stoke side with such conviction renders as laughable the suggestion that the Hornets may make a quick return to Division Two.
After a tentative start to the game, Watford eventually took the lead. Jackett's corner was partially cleared, Callaghan chipped the ball through into space where it was met by Lohman who swept the ball past the helpless goalkeeper. It was not a thrilling half, but one full of incident most of it of the illegal kind, but the game developed as a contest after half time.
In the 47th minute, Reilly and Barnes worked a quick clearance around the centre circle and set Callaghan clear but he missed his opportunity, driving the ball against the on rushing goalkeeper. Five minutes later, a bad back-pass by Dyson let in Reilly whose effort was blocked and Rostron, working an opening, saw his attempted shot from the rebound, charged down.
Rostron was to make more impact in the 57th minute. He started the move that saw Barnes and Callaghan combine well before plying Rostron with a return ball. Dyson promptly fouled the winger on the edge of the box and from the free kick, Barnes superbly curled the ball over the Stoke wall and into the net for the Hornet's second of the match.
Stoke rallied briefly when a Maguire shot was blocked and an ensuing goalmouth scramble saw further attempts by Chamberlain and Painter before Watford escaped. The Hornets switched straight to the attack and Lohman threaded the ball through for Rostron to take it on and cross to the far post. Callaghan came in, but sent his header against the woodwork and Stoke survived again.
Sherwood saved well from McIlroy on the hour yet five minutes later Jobson put the hope of a Stoke revival beyond reach when he finished off good approach work by Callaghan and Rostron to send in a 20-yard shot for the third goal.
Twelve minutes from time, the Hornets scored the fourth. Lohman won a block-tackle and the ball span to Barnes who promptly lost O'Callaghan and gracefully moved clear to complete the victory and eradicate last season's 4-0 reverse at the Victoria stadium.
Shaqiri vs. Zeegelaar
With Shaqiri's role in Lambert's system, it is hard to know who he will come up against in one-on-one situations. If he starts on the right, then it will be the responsibility of left-back Marvin Zeegelaar to keep him quiet and restrict his influence. If the Dutch defender can contain the talented Swiss international, then that may restrict Stoke's overall attacking flair.
Shawcross vs. Deeney
Both players will enjoy the physical battle and will thrive on the challenge. Deeney has shown that his game is not solely down to his strength, his subtle touches and clever hold up play will allow those behind him to have greater involvement. If Shawcross can disrupt Deeney's influence by marking him tightly and not giving him time, this will impact hugely on Watford's attacking threat.
Paul Lambert likes his teams to be defensively sound and work hard as a collective unit. He will be hoping that the Potters can replicate their performance against Huddersfield Town which had vigour and intent from the first whistle.
Therefore, expect minimal changes to the starting XI as Lambert will want to maintain continuity. It is certainly an opportunity for Stoke to earn three precious points to climb up the table.
There is much transfer speculation about club captain Troy Deeney's future, but expect the formidable striker to show his resilience and strength in a lone striker role with Richarlson playing within a three behind, which may give them more of a cutting edge in attack which Watford have desperately lacked in recent weeks.
For the Hornets, expect the formation to match Stoke's 4-2-3-1, injuries will restrict Javi Garcia's selection as the Spanish coach searches to find that formula to turn Watford back in to a winning side.
Stoke City's Potential Lineup: Butland, Bauer, Shawcross, Zouma, Pieters, Fletcher, adam, Shaqiri, Allen, Choupo-Moting and Diouf.
Watford's Potential Lineup: Karnezis, Janmaat, Waque, Kabasele, Zeegelaar, Watson, Doucoure, Carrillo, Pereyra, Richarlison and Deeney.
Expect both sides to be vigilant in their approach in a tightly fought contest. The sides are evenly matched regardless of the contrasting league positions and will cancel out each other's threats resulting in a hard fought draw with Watford, rather than Stoke, satisfied with the point.
Prediction: Stoke City 1-1 Watford