Neither side is in imperious form, although the Black Cats lie sixth off the back of their comprehensive win over Reading in midweek. They have won three of their last five games, whereas the Hornets have just one win from their last six outings.
Tony Mowbray will have plenty of big decisions to make in terms of team selection today, contending with injuries and players pushing for a starting berth.
With that in mind, this is the starting line-up we predict for Sunderland as they take on Watford…
Anthony Patterson will likely continue in goal and will sit behind the main tactical change.
Switching from a back three to a defensive four, Lynden Gooch will drop from wing-back into full-back whilst Aji Alese deputises at left-back, shifting from a central role. Danny Batth and Luke O’Nein remain at the heart of defence.
With the switch at the back, it gives the chance for a midfield three to be formed. Elliot Embleton impressed off the bench against Reading, setting up both of Patrick Roberts’ goals.
Mowbray labelled the 23-year-old “a lad with a lot of talent” and may finally be ready to give him a run in the team. He could sit alongside regular starters Corry Evans and Dan Neil in the middle of the park.
Patrick Roberts could arguably be the first name on the teamsheet after his outstanding display on Wednesday, when he scored twice in quick succession to down the Royals.
On the opposing flank, Jack Clarke will likely be pushed up from wing-back. He also scored in midweek and will be hoping to do so again at Vicarage Road.
That leaves the centre-forward position, and with Simms and Ross Stewart both ruled out, the only natural replacement is Leon Dajaku. The German youngster was solid last season for the Black Cats, scoring four goals and setting up four more in League One, but whether he can make the step up to Championship level remains to be seen.