The National's sports team is counting down the days until defending champions Leicester City take on newly promoted Hull City in the opening fixture of the 2016/17 English Premier League season by looking at one team a day. Today, Watford.
Like Bournemouth, Watford will be hoping to avoid the dreaded second season syndrome, but unlike the club from the south coast, Watford are aiming to achieve it with a new manager in charge. It may seem strange for a newly promoted club to sack a manager, in this instance Quique Sanchez Flores, for achieving a 13th place finish in the Premier League and an FA Cup semi-final, and it baffled many at the time of his departure. But the fact remained that Watford's second half slump, of 12 defeats in 20 games compared to just five defeats in the first 18 matches, was relegation form and a decision had to be made. The task has now been handed to former Napoli and Inter Milan manager Walter Mazzarri not only keep Watford in the Premier League, but to push the club up the table to satisfy the high demands of the owners. Watford will again be relying in their star strike duo, captain Troy Deeney and Nigerian Odion Ighalo, to produce the goods, and having rejected a combined £65 million for both players this summer, the club will hope their faith is justified. Watford's biggest short-term concern is sure to be the fixture list. Their first five games are Southampton (A), Chelsea (H), Arsenal (H), West Ham (A), Manchester United (H), and failing to pick up points from those could pile early pressure on the manager and squad. If Watford can come through those matches relatively unscathed, and build some momentum they can secure their top flight status for another year. One way or the other, it should be an interesting season at Vicarage Road.
• Hull City: Promoted club had unstable summer
• Middlesbrough: Hopes lie largely in Spaniards
• Burnley: Third time the charm?
• Sunderland: Moyes the make or break factor in survival hopes
• Bournemouth: Well placed to avoid 'second season syndrome'
• Crystal Palace: Time to deliver on all that talent
• West Bromwich Albion: Another season of mid-table mediocrity
Still to come
• Tomorrow: Swansea City
• Tuesday, Aug 2: Everton
• Wednesday, Aug 3: Chelsea
• Thursday, Aug 4: Stoke City
• Friday, Aug 5: Liverpool
• Saturday, Aug 6: West Ham United
• Sunday, Aug 7: Southampton
• Monday, Aug 8: Manchester United
• Tuesday, Aug 9: Manchester City
• Wednesday, Aug 10: Tottenham
• Thursday, Aug 11: Arsenal
• Friday, Aug 12: Leicester City
• Saturday, Aug 13: Premier League season begins
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