Premier League

Tottenham Hotspur-Watford Preview

Antonio Conte accepts there is still room for improvement at Tottenham but has warned his players to only focus on one game at a time in a season-defining month.

The Lilywhites were held 1-1 by Southampton on Tuesday and head to Watford on Saturday for their first Premier League game of 2022.

Spurs also have an EFL Cup semi-final double-header with Chelsea, as well as league games with the Blues and Arsenal before the end of January, which also marks the start of this season's FA Cup.

Conte, the first ever Spurs manager to go unbeaten in his first seven league matches, is seeking a strong start to the new year at Vicarage Road.

"The most important thing for us is the three points," he said. "To think too much about what will happen next is not good for us. We have to go step by step, game by game.

"We know we need to improve in many aspects if we want to be competitive. In this moment, we are a long distance from the top four.

"My expectation is that this is the first game of the new year but my expectation is always the same, to play a really good game then try to get the three points."

Watford are themselves after a response following a run of five successive defeats that leaves them deep in relegation danger.

The Hornets were thrashed 4-1 by West Ham last time out and boss Claudio Ranieri, who like Conte has won the Premier League, knows a lot more is needed from his players.

"We are ready and we know Tottenham are in a good condition," he said. "They are a good team, but we want to play much better than the last match against West Ham.

"All the team have to help and sometimes we make some mistakes, but we have to be very focused and concentrate throughout the match."

Watford - Emmanuel Dennis

Dennis has been left out of Nigeria's final Africa Cup of Nations squad for next month's tournament in a major boost for Watford, who have relied far too heavily on the striker. The 24-year-old has been directly involved in 10 goals in his last eight Premier League games, having a hand in 67 per cent of the goals his side have scored across that period (10 out of 15).

Tottenham - Harry Kane

Kane has returned to form with a goal in each of his last three Premier League outings and will be confident of extending that run on Saturday. The England international has scored five Premier League goals on New Year's Day - no player has managed more - while also assisting three more.

- Watford have won just one of their last 17 league games against Tottenham (D6 L10), beating them 2-1 at Vicarage Road in September 2018.

- Tottenham have won just two of their last 10 away league games against Watford (D5 L3), and are winless in their last three visits to Vicarage Road since a 4-1 win on New Year's Day 2017.

- Spurs lost on New Year's Day in 2020 (1-0 v Southampton), having won each of their previous six Premier League games on January 1 before this.

- Watford are the only side without a Premier League clean sheet this season. They have conceded in each of their last 27 games in the competition, the longest run without a clean sheet by any club in the division since Burnley's run of 29 games between November 2009 and August 2014.

- Tottenham boss Conte is unbeaten in five Premier League games against fellow Italian managers (W4 D1), including two 3-0 wins against Ranieri in 2016-17. Meanwhile, Watford coach Ranieri has lost each of his last four Premier League meetings with fellow Italians.

Updated December 31, 2021

@STATS_Football