Watford Head Coach Slaven Bilić provided a detailed update on Imrân Louza’s current condition after suffering an injury during the midweek defeat to Millwall.
The Moroccan midfielder went down during the first half at The Den, and was stretchered off after receiving treatment on the pitchside by medical staff.
During his pre-match press conference ahead of the Luton Town (Sunday October 23, 12noon KO) encounter, Bilić explained that Louza will be sidelined for an extended period.
“Unfortunately, he’s going to be out for a long time,” Bilić began. “We’re still waiting on another opinion, but it will be a few months.
“He broke his fibula bone - that isn’t always big, it can sometimes be a few weeks - but the ligament is also damaged. When that’s damaged, it requires longer.
“It’s a big blow of course for us and the player. It is very hard, almost impossible to replace him. He is unique, but we have to change the way we play, be positive and he’ll be back. Hopefully, if he recovers well, he will be back for the crucial part of the season.
“As a manager, you are not selfish, but you’re never happy when your players aren’t available. When you train and play at this level and with this intensity, especially when the games pile up and you don’t have time to recover, then injuries happen.
“There are a lot [of injuries] now with Imrân and other key players, some I haven’t seen in training because they were injured when I came. When it comes down to the defence, we have I think 80 per cent of our defenders injured which is impossible to replace.
“This is not the NFL, where you have a squad of 50 or 60 or whatever. We are in a situation where from six, four are out, but it is what it is. Some of the players will be back quite soon, which is why I mention the World Cup break.
“Realistically, aside from Imrân, most of them should be back when we restart, and that’s what we are looking forward to. We’re not thinking about that though, there are six games to go.”
On team news for the clash this weekend with local rivals Luton, Craig Cathcart is expected to be back amongst the matchday squad, while the encounter arrives too early for others in defence.
“I hope so and I expect [Cathcart to be available],” he said. “It was too early for him [against Millwall], but he made a massive effort to play against Norwich City and the way he led the team was impressive.
“We knew before the game that it would be very hard for him to play three games in six or seven days. He is still not with us on the pitch, but he is training in recovery and I have told him that there is a big chance that he plays on Sunday.
“Elsewhere, Francisco Sierralta is still out, Christian Kabasele is still out, [Kortney] Hause is out, but he may start to train with us tomorrow. At the moment we are with William Troost-Ekong and Mattie Pollock from the central defenders.”
Bilić is well aware of the history between the Hornets and the Hatters, and is excited to make his mark on the significant contest at Vicarage Road in front of the Watford faithful.
He added: “In the last couple of weeks, people at the club have been talking about it and I didn’t know it was this big, but it’s huge. It’s not just three points, it’s much more than that. It’s not Liverpool and Everton, it’s more like West Ham United and Millwall, and it’s the first time since 2006 with supporters.
“These kinds of games are the ones when you are a player and manager that you are waiting for. It’s a big occasion and every footballer who has come to this level is not just because of the quality, but because they have the motivation and drive. Those kinds of players look forward to these days and the big derbies. You don’t want to miss them or let them pass you by, you want to play in them and affect those games and be a protagonist - and so do I.
“They know [how important the match is], I’m going to remind them in a nice way, but they know. It’s a big game, not an ordinary game, not that there are any ordinary games in this league. Every game in the Championship is extremely competitive, but this adds a bit more.
“I played in the late 1980s and early 1990s in Yugoslavia and Croatia during the war. Dinamo and Hajduk was a friendly derby, but Hajduk and Red Star was the biggest derby in the country. It was more than football, let’s say. These games are the ones you want to play. These games give you a special kind of sweating before the matches.
“Luton are established in the Championship. Very direct, similar to Millwall but not the same, so you need to prevent them and everyone has to step forward and be on the front foot, be willing to help their teammates and be positive. We just have to be more consistent.”