Manchester United’s 5-2 thrashing of Bournemouth earlier in the day saw Chelsea slip outside the top four before kick-off, but the Blues bounced back with very little fuss as Watford failed to exploit the hosts’ defensive frailties.
Chelsea boss Frank Lampard reacted to the bitter disappointment of blowing a lead to lose 3-2 at struggling West Ham on Wednesday by making four changes with Marcos Alonso and Antonio Rudiger paying the price for their part in the Hammers’ late winner.
Giroud was one of those recalled to the starting line-up and the 33-year-old showed why Lampard extended his contract for another year during the coronavirus shutdown.
The French international was denied by the quick reflexes of Ben Foster with his first big chance, but was not to be stopped when he span onto Barkley’s pass before finding the bottom corner on 28 minutes.
Watford manager Nigel Pearson also made a big call with his team selection as he recalled Nathaniel Chalobah to the starting line-up and Andre Gray to the matchday squad after both were dropped for a 3-1 home defeat by Southampton last weekend after flouting government guidelines by attending a party for Gray’s 29th birthday.
However, there was no improvement in the performance as Watford have taken just one point from four games since the restart.
The visitors gave themselves a mountain to climb when Etienne Capoue unnecessarily barged into Christian Pulisic to concede a penalty.
Willian is into the final month of his contract at Stamford Bridge after seven years with the club. But if the Brazilian is to depart with Arsenal and Tottenham interested in keeping him in London, his Chelsea career is going out on a high as he netted his fourth goal in as many Premier League games since the resumption.
Watford appeared content just to keep the score down after half-time with goal difference a consideration in the battle to beat the drop.
Pearson’s men host bottom-of-the-table Norwich on Tuesday in a huge match if they are to build up a cushion over Bournemouth and Aston Villa, with Arsenal and Manchester City to come in the final week of the season.
Chelsea could have added plenty more in the second half, but had to settle for just one in stoppage time as Barkley fired home Cesar Azpilicueta’s cut-back.