Injury Update | Nordin Amrabat
By Kevin Affleck
Nordin Amrabat, the Hornets' effervescent winger, is targeting the Premier League game against Crystal Palace for his comeback from a two-month layoff with an ankle problem.
The Moroccan has been sidelined since the first day of the year with a grade three ankle ligament sprain he sustained against Tottenham, but the finishing line is now in sight.
"I'm in the last part now," he said. "I have started to run and I hope I can train with the team next week and join the group. I'm looking forward to that moment, it's been a long time. Southampton will come too early but I hope to be ready for Crystal Palace.
"It's good we don't play the game against Chelsea as it gives me more time to recover. Then we have the international break and I can stay here to recover and be fully fit, so I can be 100 per cent for all the games we have in April."
Amrabat was injured in the 75th minute of the game against Tottenham after challenging for a ball with Victor Wanyama, the hulking Spurs midfielder.
"I had the ball and went to walk one more step but it was not possible," he said. "My foot was so painful, it was like it was on fire. It was a rubbish moment."
He had no idea the damage would keep him out for two months. "It was a grade three ankle ligament strain, both sides of the ankle and up the middle," he said. "If it's just one side then it's 4-6 weeks but because it's inside, out and in front it took so long."
The timing of the injury was lousy. Not only was Amrabat in the form of his Watford career, he was also due to join up with his national team for the African Cup of Nations.
"After the MRI scan they said it was six to eight weeks, and I knew then it was not possible to play [in the AFCON] as it was in two weeks," he says.
"Sometimes there is a miracle but my hopes were finished straight away. The coach wanted to see me, so I went to Dubai. He wanted to see it with the doctors with their own eyes as they thought it might be four weeks and then be back for the knockout matches. They then saw it and that there was no chance I could be back."
Morocco reached the quarter-finals without him, losing to beaten finalists Egypt. "It was nice to watch but I was just always thinking if I was there that I could maybe help the team, but it was not possible," he said.
Amrabat, 29, has only been out injured for any length of time on two occasions in his 13-year career, once with a hamstring problem and then two years ago with a knee injury. Neither kept him out as long as this ankle problem has.
"It's a hard time when you are injured, especially when the progress is really slow," he said. "It's not a nice period. In the last three or four weeks, when the progress is really slow, it's mentally very hard. I got a little bit down which is not like me as I'm always smiling. My teammates then pick me up and lift me."
In line with the club's tendency to treat longer-term injured players away from London Colney, Amrabat did his rehab in London and then in Holland.
"They sent me first to a clinic in London but I was not really happy there," he says.
"I asked the club if I could come back but there was lots of injuries at the time and they couldn't give me the time. So I asked to go to a physio in Holland who I knew after my knee injury. I was also allowed to go there when I was at Malaga. I have good experience with this guy."
Amrabat hobbled off at Vicarage Road against Spurs as arguably Watford's player of the season so far. Only Sebastian Prödl was really pushing him close. The team have since enjoyed a richer vein of form, opportunity has knocked for others and now Amrabat has a fight on his hands to get back in the starting XI.
"It depends on the coach," said Amrabat.
"When I'm ready and 100 per cent fit, he can count on me. If the team needs me then I will be ready."