Chelsea vs. Watford: Team News, Predicted Lineups, Live Stream, TV Info

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2015

COBHAM, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 23:  New Chelsea Manager Guus Hiddink walks in ahead of a press conference at Chelsea Training Ground on December 23, 2015 in Cobham, England.  (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)
Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

As one era ended last week with the departure of Jose Mourinho, another begins at Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day.

Guus Hiddink has returned to west London as Chelsea attempt to save their season and pull away from a relegation scrap.

Hiddink will be desperate for a win against Watford. Not only will it mean a valuable three points collected, it'll get his reign as interim manager off to a flying start.

Chelsea have needed some impetus this term, so everyone connected with the club will be hoping Hiddink can provide it.

He's done it in the past, of course. Hiddink was Chelsea's interim manager in 2009 when he took a struggling team to the Champions League semi-finals, also winning the FA Cup and finishing third in the Premier League behind Manchester United and Liverpool.

This is a different Chelsea, though.

The team Hiddink inherited six years ago was positioned fourth in the table and 10 points off the top. Now Chelsea currently sit 15th and 20 points behind leaders Leicester City.

A shot at the title has long since gone, but Hiddink has already explained that he has one eye on the Champions League places and a top-four finish.

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"Generally, I set targets: the target is, because mathematically it's possible, to get in fourth position," he said ahead of Watford's visit. "To do that we have to be exclusively good. If the target is impossible, don't set it, but I did put that to them.

"Then the Champions League; and then the FA Cup. There are three targets still to go for. On top of that, or as a foundation of that, the players must show now what they're capable of."

Victory over Watford will be the first step in that process.

Match Details

Date: Saturday, December 26

Time: 3 p.m. GMT/10 a.m. ET

Venue: Stamford Bridge, London

TV Info: Match of the Day, BBC1 (10.30 p.m. UK only)/NBC Sports (U.S. only)

Live Stream: No UK live stream/NBCSN (U.S. only)

Last Five Games

Nov. 29 Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Chelsea
Dec. 5 Chelsea 0-1 Bournemouth
Dec. 9 Chelsea 2-0 Porto
Dec. 14 Leicester City 2-1 Chelsea
Dec. 19Chelsea 3-1 Sunderland
Chelsea FC
Nov. 21Watford 1-2 Manchester United
Nov. 28Aston Villa 2-3 Watford
Dec. 5Watford 2-0 Norwich City
Dec. 12Sunderland 0-1 Watford
Dec. 20Watford 3-0 Liverpool
Watford FC

Predicted Lineups

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 14:  A worried Jose Mourinho the manager of Chelsea looks on as Eden Hazard of Chelsea leaves the pitch due to injury during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Chelsea at the King Power Stadium on De
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Unusually for this time of the season, Chelsea and Watford have close to fully fit squads.

The Blues are sweating over the fitness of Eden Hazard heading into this game, with Hiddink confirming on Wednesday that the Belgian only had a short training session as he continued his comeback from the hip injury suffered against Leicester City.

Radamel Falcao also remains a doubt.

As for the visitors, Joel Ekstrand remains on the sidelines, and there is a doubt over Sebastian Prodl's fitness.

Nathan Ake is ineligible as he's on loan from Chelsea.

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Courtois; Ivanovic, Zouma, Terry, Azpilicueta; Matic, Fabregas; Willian, Oscar, Pedro; Diego Costa

Watford (4-4-2): Gomes; Nyom, Prodl, Britos, Holebas; Abdi, Capoue, Watson, Jurado; Ighalo, Deeney

Key Players

Cesc Fabregas

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 19: Sesc Fabregas of Chelsea applauds fans as he is replaced during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on December 19, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Given Watford's form of late and the football they have played this season, it's vital Chelsea starve them of possession.

They need to play the game in the opposition half and ensure Watford retreat, worrying more about protecting their own goal than scoring in Chelsea's.

To do that, Cesc Fabregas will need to be on form. At his best, the Spaniard dictates the flow and tempo of games, but he hasn't done that anywhere near enough this term.

If he can turn Watford's midfield, it'll mean Chelsea getting much more joy than most teams have been getting.

The Hornets will still be a threat on the counter, but it's through controlling the tempo that this game will be won.

Odion Ighlao

WATFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 20:  Quique Flores manager of Watford and Odion Ighalo of Watford celebrate victory after the Barclays Premier League match between Watford and Liverpool at Vicarage Road on December 20, 2015 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Ric
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

The Nigerian has been a revelation for Watford this season, helping the newly promoted side take the Premier League by storm.

He already has 12 goals in 17 league matches, with five of them coming in his last four outings.

With Troy Deeney alongside him, the Nigerian is a massive threat and will ask questions of what has been a shaky Chelsea defence this season.

The concern for John Terry, et al, is that Ighalo isn't your traditional target man who can be contained physically. He's nimble, likes running at players and demonstrates excellent movement to find space.

He's being doing it regularly this term, and there is no reason why he can't continue his excellent form at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea must stop him at all costs.


Chelsea 2-1 Watford


Home Win: -278

Away Win: +741

Draw: +365

First Goalscorer: Diego Costa (4/1)

Odds via Odds Shark and Oddschecker

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes