13/09/2017

Injury Update | Zárate Steps Up Recovery

Mauro Zárate stepped up his recovery from a serious knee injury with some valuable game-time for the Hornets’ Under-23s earlier this week.

The Argentine forward hasn’t featured competitively since February but did play for 80 minutes during Monday’s 4-2 win over Burnley, adding to the 45 minutes he gained in a training ground friendly against Millwall earlier this month.

Performance Director Gavin Benjafield said: “Mauro’s rehabilitation is going really well. As well as full team training, he’s been exposed to two game situations and he is looking very confident. 

“He’s still continuing to work individually on his fitness and preparation work for the remainder of the season, but he has made really good progress.”

Roberto Pereyra is also back in full team training and edging closer to a return to first-team action following the muscle injury he sustained against Liverpool last month.

Kiko Femenía was taken to hospital as a precaution after suffering a head injury at Southampton on Saturday. The Spaniard was fully assessed and has been progressing well at the Hornets’ UCL training ground this week.

Younès Kaboul is still being assessed having been withdrawn at St Mary’s with a hamstring injury, while Sebastian Prödl is progressing ahead of schedule following an injury suffered on international duty and has started pitch-based rehabilitation at the training ground this week.

13/09/2017

Opposition Focus | Manchester City

Ric Turner, of BlueMoon, the leading Manchester City fans' forum, provides us with the inside track on Saturday's high-riding opponents.

Three wins and a draw so far. How would you assess the start to the season?

It was a fairly slow start, with unconvincing performances against Brighton, Everton and Bournemouth. We looked much better against Liverpool, but you have to obviously factor in that they played with 10 men for 50 minutes. It's hard to complain with 10 points out of a possible 12.

How disappointing was it to miss out on Alexis Sanchez and where on earth would he have played in Guardiola's free-wheeling team?

It was a shame that we missed out on Sanchez, as I think he could be the difference in terms of winning the league. I realise people will point to the numerous attacking options that we already have, but we only have two out and out strikers (Aguero and Jesus), and an injury to either would cause a big problem.

How are Kompany and Ederson? Will they be fit for the weekend? Anyone else injured?

Ederson should be fit, but I think Kompany will miss out again. Yaya Toure isn't injured, but has seemingly fallen out of favour with Guardiola again, but no one is quite sure why.

Is the pressure really on Guardiola to win the league after the summer spend?

Expectations are certainly high this season, but I don't think the pressure is on Guardiola as such. It's highly unlikely that the board would sack him if we didn't win the league.

Has he changed the formation and personnel since last season?

We had a high turnover of players in the summer, with 11 senior pros leaving and five players coming in. As such, the squad is lighter in terms of numbers but the quality has improved significantly. In terms of formation, we've been mainly playing three at the back with Walker and Mendy pushing on as attacking wing-backs.

You spent a fortune on wing-backs in the summer. How have Mendy, Walker and Danilo fared so far?

The fees paid for those players were exorbitant - although that's just the nature of the market now - but it was an area that had been neglected for a long time. We hadn't spent anything on full-backs since 2010, and the four we had last season (Clichy, Kolarov, Zabaleta and Sagna) were all over 30 and not suited to Guardiola's system. The new signings have settled in well and improved us considerably in that position.

Is there a fear the midweek game at Feyenoord might take something out of the squad and give Watford an advantage?

I think it's always difficult to raise your game after a midweek away Champions League game. Your players will obviously be fresher, but there's no room for excuses with the squad we have at our disposal.

Pep only played Jesus up top away from home against Bournemouth. Is there a feeling he could do that again or is the Jesus-Aguero partnership now set in stone?

The Aguero-Jesus partnership looked good against Liverpool, but I wouldn't say it's set in stone. Guardiola rotates frequently, both in terms of formation and personnel. It's pretty hard trying to second guess which team he'll pick! It wouldn't surprise me if Jesus started tonight (Wednesday v Feyenoord), and Aguero started on Saturday.

Gabriel Jesus (3) and Sergio Aguero (2) have already scored five goals in the Premier League this season

Jadon Sancho has links to both clubs. How good is he and how disappointed were you to lose him?

Sancho was one of the brightest prospects in our academy, along with Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz. It was a blow to lose him, but there was little we could do. We offered him a decent contract but his agent advised him to reject it. He's an outstanding talent, and I'm sure he'll go on to have a successful career at Dortmund. We received a decent fee for him (around £10m) and thankfully he didn't join one of our rivals.

How do you see the game going?

I think it will be a difficult match for us, but hopefully it will be an open game with goals in it. I'll go for City to nick it 2-1.

And, finally, what have you made to Watford's start to the season?

It's been a great start for Marco Silva. I think he was an astute appointment, and he seems to have galvanised a squad that was in disarray when we played you at the end of last season.