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Match Preview: Watford v Bolton Wanderers

Hornets manager Gianfranco Zola has Watford riding high, fourth in the Championship, but old boy Marvin Sordell and Bolton will come into Vicarage Road believing they can take three points and finally get their own promotion push underway.

More of this would be nice to see.
More of this would be nice to see.
Gareth Copley

Fans of American football will be all atwitter this weekend with the Super Bowl, but Bolton Supporters have got the Sordell-Bowl happening on Saturday at 3 PM. Marvin Sordell is returning to Vicarage Road to face his old club for the first time since his move to Bolton just over one year ago, and he is returning on the back of a great run of form. Sordell has started three of Bolton's last five matches, and he has scored four goals in that run. He is still not quite ready to play 90 minutes twice a week, as the Championship demands, but it has been seven days since he played 84 minutes (and scored a goal) against Everton, so he should feature from the start.

Watford and Bolton have not faced each other since 2007, when Watford last spent a season in the Premier League. Given that, the history of the match-up doesn't really seem relevant. So let's look at what the clubs have done so far this season:

As you read above, Watford currently sit fourth in the Championship, four points off of automatic promotion, but a very safe-looking seven points clear of the nearest challenger to their playoff spot. They have 49 points from 29 matches. They have scored a draw-jopping 56 goals, easily tops in the division, while only conceding 39. All of this stands in contrast to Bolton Wanderers, who sit 17th in the Championship, holding 34 points from 28 matches. Wanderers have scored 40 goals while conceding 41. The form has improved under Dougie Freedman, but the Trotters still have their work cut out for them.

Watford had been on a very good run of form, winning three on the trot while outscoring their opponents by a combined tally of 9-1. That all came crashing down on Wednesday when Bristol City beat them 2-0. Bolton had their own four match unbeaten run ended by Everton last Saturday in the FA Cup, but the sheer quality of the performance masked the bitterness of the defeat.

Gianfranco Zola has proven quite adept at rotating his squad, and his forwards, who have combined for over 30 goals, should feature heavily. Unfortunately, the only thing heavy about Bolton is the injury list. New signings Medo Kamara and Steve de Ridder were always unlikely to feature, but the other players still out could force at least one new signing into duty. Craig Dawson came in from West Brom last week and is pushing Zat Knight and Tim Ream for a place in the starting XI. However, Dawson has only played five minutes of football since September, and fitness is very important to Dougie Freedman.

Keith Andrews is still battling problems with his thigh and achilles, so he won't be available. By the time Andrews is fit again he may be looking at Jay Spearing, Josh Vela, Kamara, Stu Holden, and Mark Davies all ahead of him on the depth chart. That won't be an issue against Watford though. Davies is still rehabbing his shoulder in the trainer's room, and Holden will feature in tonight's reserve match and so will not travel to Watford. That means that Spearing and Vela, the young pairing who were so effective against Everton, will link up again to try and stop Watford's goal-scoring machine.

David Wheater and Matt Mills will also be unavailable, although Wheater will join Holden in facing Manchester City's reserve side tonight.

The decision everyone who supports the Trotters will really be anxious to see at Vicarage Road involves the forward line. It is almost guaranteed that Chung-Yong Lee and Chris Eagles will start on the wings, so we just want to see which striker (or strikers) they will be whipping crosses in for. Benik Afobe has returned to Arsenal, so he is no longer in contention. Craig Davies has been limited in his opportunities so far (as a certain writer on this site predicted), and that probably won't change this weekend.

It's hard to envision a scenario where Marvin Sordell doesn't play from the start given his recent form and history with Watford (25 goals in his final season and a half). But Kevin Davies expects to start every league match, and gets grumpy when he doesn't. Not to mention David Ngog, who is probably Bolton's finest all around forward. Will Dougie go with two up top, try to match attack-oriented Watford goal-for-goal, or will he take a more conservative route, and try to take the sting out of the hornets? We will see tomorrow. Bolton's last league match ended 0-0, I wouldn't bet on that score line appearing again.