Marco Silva will make a late decision on the fitness of Will Hughes before deciding whether the midfielder comes into contention for Saturday’s trip to Brighton.
Hughes has not featured since injuring his hamstring against Manchester United in late November, but Silva revealed at today’s pre-Brighton press conference that the 22-year-old has returned to full training.
“There may be something new to report about Will, we will see,” said the Hornets’ Head Coach.
“Tomorrow [Friday] we will work one more day, one more session, and we will see how he reacts.
“He worked with the team this morning. It was a full session and he feels okay, so we will see tomorrow. We will work again and after that we will take a decision.”
Watford will certainly welcome back Tom Cleverley at the American Express Community Stadium; the midfielder returns from a one-game suspension following his sending off at Crystal Palace.
Abdoulaye Doucouré is banned having collected his fifth booking of the season against Huddersfield, while Troy Deeney and Marvin Zeegelaar are also suspended following their respective red cards.
The Seagulls game has come too soon for Kiko Femenía, who remains sidelined by a hamstring injury.
Watch Silva’s full pre-Brighton press conference above – free to view, no sign-up required.
Opposition Focus | Brighton
Brian Owen, of The Argus, tells us what to expect from Brighton when we play them at the AMEX on Saturday.
Would it be fair to say, with no win in seven, that the Seagulls are limping rather than steaming towards Christmas?
“They made quite a good start and were quite happy. They were eighth going into the first international break but the step up in schedule, with two games a week of late, hasn't helped them. They've been twice as busy and they have just run out of steam. They've gone through a lull and it's caught up with them. They've not got a big squad and play every game like a cup final. They rarely drop below full throttle, so it's taken its toll.”
You've not had the easiest run of fixtures, with games against Man United, Liverpool and Spurs all in the last six.
“They've had a hard run. They were quite unfortunate not to get anything at at Old Trafford and only lost to a deflected Ashley Young shot. I think that caught up with them and took a lot out of them as they lost to Spurs at Wembley and were then blown away by Liverpool. But they were really, really poor at Huddersfield. They just didn't turn up that day and got what they deserved.”
The performance and result against high-riding Burnley was encouraging, though.
“They were better against Burnley. They really got about them and were really enterprising. They couldn't have come much closer than they did to winning the game. They missed a penalty, hit the post and had one cleared off the line. The penalty miss kind of summed up just how badly they are struggling not only with goals, but chances, too. They don't come around too often at this level and when they do you need to take them.”
You're still 13th, though. Is there still plenty of support for Chris Hughton, who has done a great job there?
“There will be moans at subs and selections but yes, the fans are definitely still with him and respect where he has taken them from. I don't think they expected to have this many points at this stage of the season and they've even achieved them a different way to what people would have expected. I think if you spoke to fans half-an-hour after the game and in the cold light of day, he still retains massive support.”
Can he keep them up, though?
“Yes, I think so. I wouldn’t put my mortgage on it but I do think they can pull it off. What they do in January will be crucial, though, particularly in the centre-forward area. They need someone a bit quicker who can get in behind. Hemed and Murray are quite similar.”
A goalscorer sounds like it will top of the January shopping list.
“I would have thought so. I reckon they'll invest as soon as the window opens. All sorts of names have been linked and they were definitely close to bringing in one or two on deadline day but, for whatever reason, it didn't happen.
“Initially their failure to do so didn't look like it was going to hurt them as Groß was very productive, Murray scored some goals and Hemed got a couple. But they've dried up a bit and they are just so short in that area. He won't go two up front, though. He likes the 4-4-1-1 or the 4-2-3-1, with Gross as the ten and then two wingers.”
We know Steve Sidwell is out long term with a back problem but are there any other doubts or suspensions for this weekend?
“Shane Duffy is out. He deliberately handled the ball in injury time in the last game and that was his fifth booking. It was a ridiculous booking, really. He just mis-judged the bouncing ball. Connor Goldson should come in for his Premier League debut. He’s ex-Shrewsbury Town and a mate of Andre Gray, apparently.
“He played against Bournemouth in the League Cup and is seen as the next one in line. He'll partner Lewis Dunk and they are good mates. Duffy will be a miss, though, as he's been immense alongside Dunk.”
Go on then, let's have your predicted XI...
"It will be the same as last week as they didn't play badly. There is no reason to be mixing it up, plus the squad isn't that deep either. The main thing is that Goldson will come in for Duffy, so the XI will be...
The goalless draw at our place seems a while ago now. What are your recollections of that day?
“I remember Knockaert and Hemed both hit the post and that there was a lot of disappointment after that. The international break felt like a long time to contemplate two points dropped and wondering where the first goal was going to come from.
“As it turned out, it was the start of a decent run as they won two of the next three, including a 3-1 win at home to West Brom. But I felt the Watford game was the first time they looked comfortable in a Premier League match and that Brighton were already on top before Britos was sent off.”
Who has been your stand-out player so far?
“Lewis Dunk. He's been solid and full of no-frills defending. He's been better on the ball than expected, picking out passes and showing a decent first touch. The only thing missing is a goal but he has come close from set-pieces.”
It feels like quite a big game for both sides on Saturday.
"It's quite a big game for Brighton, for sure. They've got Chelsea and Newcastle away coming up in quick succession so this home game is a significant one. They'd be looking at this one as a game to win, especially after that defeat against Hudderfield who were promoted with us.
“They'd be lying if they didn't see Deeney being sent off, Doucoure being suspended and Zeegalaar out as a chance to get three points. I think there will be a lot of disappointment if they don't win on Saturday.”
We've been through the emotional wringer since we last met. Have you followed our fortunes?
"I can’t work you out. Granted, I haven't followed you that closely but, before the Huddersfield game, you'd lost games by a narrow margin. The one against Palace must have really hurt.
“I don't know what to expect on Saturday but you are clearly a team with a lot of talent and I think you'll come down with your backs to the wall and like a wounded animal. I'm really wary of Watford and I think Brighton will have to be at their best to get anything.”