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Preview: Watford vs. Middlesbrough - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Friday's Championship fixture between Watford and Middlesbrough, including team news and injury news.

Watford begin life back in the Championship with an opening-day fixture against Middlesbrough on Friday evening.

While the Hornets finished in 19th position in the Premier League last season, Boro claimed 17th spot at the second tier after a late-season surge up the standings.

Match preview

wMiddlesbrough manager Neil Warnock pictured in the EFl Cup on September 4, 2020© Reuters

With Nigel Pearson having been removed from his position at the end of last season, it was inevitable that Watford would bring in a new man in the dugout ahead of what feels like a new era for the club.

Their chosen replacement is Vladimir Ivic, a man who has enjoyed success at both PAOK and Maccabi Tel Aviv, and Hornets supporters will feel optimistic that most things are in place to have a successful season.

While other star names are expected to follow Abdoulaye Doucoure through the exit door, the signings of Jeremy Ngakia, Stipe Perica and Glenn Murray tick a lot of boxes.

Ivic will no doubt be provided with the funds to further strengthen a squad in transition, although the Serbian will already be encouraged by a pre-season victory over Tottenham Hotspur.

Despite the likely activity behind the scenes, Ivic will be fully focused on trying to get the better of opponents who head into the season in mixed shape.

As it stands, Neil Warnock has not managed to find replacements for a number of experienced heads who have all left the Riverside Stadium on a free transfer.

Nevertheless, having followed a pre-season thumping of Newcastle United with a thrilling 4-3 victory over Shrewsbury Town in the EFL Cup, the veteran boss will be excited to work with this group of players going forward.

Warnock will insist, however, that any expectations regarding a playoff bid are lowered, despite a return of 12 points from his opening eight matches at the end of last season.

While solving his side's defensive issues will be at the top of his agenda, Warnock will want to continue getting the best out of Ashley Fletcher and Britt Assombalonga.

The duo already have five goals apiece since his arrival back in June, and any future success for the club may be dependent on the front pairing maintaining their current ratio.

Watford form (pre-season friendlies): LWW

Middlesbrough form (all competitions): W

Team News

Andre Gray celebrates scoring for Watford on January 26, 2019© Reuters

Andre Gray will play no part for Watford this weekend after sustaining an injury during last weekend's meeting with Spurs.

Ismaila Sarr and Troy Deeney are also among the players out of contention for the Hornets, which could lead to a start for Murray in attack.

Francisco Sierralta, who came off the substitutes' bench against Spurs, may also make his debut after signing from Udinese on Wednesday.

Middlesbrough boss Warnock is unlikely to make many alterations to the team which started against Shrewsbury.

There will be at least one change in the squad due to youngster Sam Stubbs being allowed to link up with Fleetwood Town.

Watford possible starting lineup:
Foster; Dawson, Kabasele, Wilmot; Ngakia, Chalobah, Cleverley, Estupinan; Dele-Bashiru, Quina; Murray

Middlesbrough possible starting lineup:
Stojanovic; Dijksteel, Hall, Fry; Spence, Howson, Wing, Tavernier, Johnson; Fletcher, Assombalonga

SM words green background

We say: Watford 2-1 Middlesbrough

While Boro have gotten a competitive 90 minutes under their belt, they were far from convincing against lower-league opponents. With that in mind, we are backing the home side to get off to a winning start, potentially with a hard-fought win which features a late strike.

Top betting tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting under 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 2.5:data


Who will win Friday's Championship clash between Watford and Middlesbrough?

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Vladimir Ivic as PAOK boss in 2017
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Watford boss Vladimir Ivic looking forward to Championship opener
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