Opposition Focus | Bristol City

Gregor Macgregor, the City reporter at the Bristol Post, tells us all about the Robins ahead of the third round FA Cup tie at Vicarage Road.

You've carved out a bit of a reputation as cup giant killers this season. Should we be expecting another ambush on Saturday?

“I think it's a good time to play City, to be honest. They've lost the last two and have been unable to rotate players as they've got a really bad injury list: they've got something like nine out injured.

“Lee Johnson has already said they'll give quite a few first teamers some time off for the FA Cup game. We are not expecting to go through but having said that we didn't expect to win the Carabao Cup game.”

There's a rather big game on Tuesday, too...

“They've got Man City in the League Cup Semi-Final first leg and Johnson will save first-team players for that. He said he wasn't going to go with a second string for the City match – he'll go with his strongest side, so expect big changes against Watford.”

Who can we expect to feature for the Robins against us then?

“Johnson has already said that the front two will be Cauley Woodrow and Matty Taylor. Niclas Eliasson will definitely play. He's a young Swedish Under-21 international. It was said in the press conference this week that a few from the Under-23 side might get a chance, but I think they may come off the bench.

“Two other young guys who will certainly play are Lloyd Kelly and Zak Vyner. They haven't played too much in the league but they should get their chance in the cup.”

We really liked the look of Lloyd Kelly when he played against us. He looks a real find at left-back...

“It's been a bit of a breakthrough season for him. He made his first league start on December 23 and then got on the scoresheet against Reading. He's only 19 and is going to be a really good player.”

What do you reckon the team to face us might be then?

Steele (GK); Vyner, Magnusson, Wright, Kelly; Eliasson, Pack, Bakinson, Hinds; Taylor, Woodrow.

Plenty of changes then from that famous night you toppled Man United at Ashton Gate. Just how special was that evening?

“It's still talked about a lot here and is one of those matches that will be remembered for many, many years. It's a reasonable question to ask if they have dipped slightly after the high of that night. Most people expect them to bounce back in next few weeks as the schedule gets easier and you get players returning.”

Bristol City's Josh Brownhill celebrates the Robins' Carabao Cup win over Manchester United

So, talk to us a bit more about your recent form then...

"They've lost the last two but before that they'd won six out of seven in all competitions, including that win over Manchester United. They've been on a really good run in the league until they were beaten by a 94th-minute goal against Wolves and then they got demolished at Villa Park.”

Yes, that 5-0 defeat at Villa Park did stand out a bit. Was it just one game too far over Christmas?

“I think so. There was very little rotation from the previous game against Wolves and you could see they were a little bit leggy. The injuries and the matches just caught up with them. They are looking at that as just a blip as Villa played well on the day, although they had their own injury problems, too.”

We know all about injuries this season and share your pain. Who has been out for you guys?

“Club record signing Famara Diedhiou was in good form and played against you lot in the cup but he's been out for three months with a knee injury and has only just returned to training. You've got Milan Djuric who has just had groin surgery, so he's going to be out for several weeks. And then you've got the long termers like Jens Hegeler, Ivan Lucic and Gary O'Neil all out with knee injuries. First-choice right-back Eros Pisano is out with a long term hamstring injury and then you've got Callum O'Dowda, who has had a great season. He’s out for 10-12 weeks with an ankle injury. That was a blow as he'd played in 22 of the 23 games.”

Who is the one player who has stood out for you this season?

“Bobby Reid. He's got 12 goals in the Championship and is one of the top-scorers in the league. He's a real key player. It's the work he does off the ball more than anything and he really leads the defensive effort from the front and gets everyone going. He's one of those livewire forwards who must be a nightmare to play against.”

Is there a chance he could fire you to automatic promotion or is a play-off place a more realistic aim?

“I think second place is still massively up for grabs. The coaching staff said this week, 'Why not first place?' but that's massively ambitious and I can't see anybody catching Wolves. Second spot is there for the taking so why not City? They are on as goon a run as anyone and the foundations are there. They've already beaten four Premier League sides this season so they've got the pedigree.”

And, finally, the transfer window is now open. Do you expect the Robins to do much business?

“They are definitely working on bringing in one or two. Johnson has been on record to say he wants one or two more in the door, especially a midfielder now Jonathan Leko has gone back to West Brom. He just wasn't playing much and Pardew wants to have a look at him.”

City celebrate in their 3-2 Carabao Cup win over the Hornets earlier this season

Friendly | Cathcart Returns 

Defender Craig Cathcart made a welcome return to action this afternoon in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Queens Park Rangers at the Hornets' training ground. 

The Northern Ireland international played 75 minutes in a 2-1 win. Winger Isaac Success also completed 90 minutes against the Hoops, as goals from Troy Deeney and Sebastian Prödl secured victory at London Colney.

Cathcart, who hasn't played since August due to a knee injury and subsequent surgery, says his aim over a tough last three months has been to get his body in the best possible place for a return. 

“It's nice to be back in a game situation, I've been back in full training for a week now,” he said, speaking to watfordfc.com after full-time.

“It was good to get back on the pitch - obviously training is a bit different, there's different distances you have to run so it was good to get back into the swing of things and get 75 minutes under my belt.

“It's been tough. The original injury was back in April and then I did the same thing against Brighton. Once I had the surgery done I've just been focused on trying to get back in the best shape I can and making sure that this time I come back and I'm back for good.”