First Team 2 weeks ago

Team News: Burnley

By Kevin Affleck

Troy Deeney and Ismaïla Sarr could be named together in the same Watford squad for the first time this weekend after Quique Sánchez Flores confirmed both took part in full training this week.

Deeney was named on the bench at Norwich City last time out and used the international break to further build up his levels of fitness and sharpness after being out since the game against Everton on the second week of the season.

Sarr was injured playing for Senegal against Congo, but he was assessed by the club's medical team when he returned early and he has been passed fit after what was deemed a knock.

Deeney injured himself against Everton and a week later Sarr was on the bench against West Ham United so the pair are yet to be in the same match-day squad.

“Sarr is okay,” said Sánchez Flores. “He has been training with us for two or three days, no problem. He looks well in training. He is ready.”

The captain is also edging closer and closer to being match ready.

“He feels much better,” said the Head Coach. “Little by little, he is progressing. He is ready and he wants to play, of course. He is wishing to go the pitch. It’s good news for us. He’s always good and understands perfectly what we feel, what we need, the necessities of the club and the team. He is able to transmit to the players the importance of every match. The presence of Deeney is very necessary for us.”

The availability of both Deeney and Sarr is a major boost for Sánchez Flores as “we still have some players recovering who are not quite ready”.

Domingos Quina (groin), Tom Cleverley (heel), Daniel Bachmann (hamstring), Danny Welbeck (hamstring), Sebastian Prödl (knee) and Roberto Pereyra (hamstring) are all out while Christian Kabasele is suspended. 

“We are happy with how they are improving,” said Sánchez Flores.

2 weeks ago

Cathcart: “An Ireland Play-Off Final Would Be Massive”

Craig Cathcart’s Northern Ireland have secured a play-off spot as they eye a route to Euro 2020, and the defender admitted a potential play-off final against the Republic of Ireland would be “a massive occasion”.

The Green and White Army finished third in their group, behind only Germany and the Netherlands, and will face Bosnia and Herzegovina in the play-off semi-final in March.

If they make it to the final, Northern Ireland could be facing off against their old rival for a precious spot in next summer’s tournament.

“We’ve got two difficult ties to get through to the final so we can’t look too far ahead, but a potential play-off final against Ireland would be a massive occasion if it does happen,” said Cathcart. “We just have to make sure we get through the first game and worry about it after that.”

The Hornets defender made his 50th appearance for Northern Ireland on Tuesday night, but all Cathcart’s focus was on the team’s accomplishment rather than his own.

“At the start of the campaign we knew we had the four games against Belarus and Estonia and we wanted to get maximum points from them, which we did in the end,” he said. “We wanted to give ourselves the best chance against Germany and Holland, as those were the last four games we played and they were the toughest in the group.”

Although Northern Ireland picked up only one point from their four games against the group leaders, they held their own in most of them and were unfortunate not to take away more.

Cathcart’s side led in the Netherlands before three late goals turned the result on its head and only a missed penalty kept them from beating the Oranje on home turf. Against Germany at home they were only killed off by a second goal in injury time and they even took the lead in Frankfurt before Joachim Löw’s side found another gear.

“In the games we were a bit unlucky at times, we pushed them all the way apart from the last game and I think we gave a good account of ourselves against two of the best teams in Europe,” Cathcart reasoned.

“We’ve got the play-offs now, we’re looking forward to them and we can take confidence from the games we’ve played so far. The performance levels were key in those games. We were a little bit unlucky and we were close to pulling it off, but they are the top teams and that’s where the difference is really.”

The performances were particularly encouraging for Cathcart and, looking forward, he fancies Northern Ireland’s chances against Bosnia and Herzegovina in the play-offs, having played against the upcoming opponents not long ago.

“We had them in the Nations League so we played them home and away and that was only maybe a year or two ago, so we know them a little bit,” he said.

“We lost in Sarajevo but we played quite well and were a bit unlucky again. The team has changed now, we were sort of going through a transitional period and we had young players coming into the squad at that time. Now the lads are more settled and the team is more experienced as well, so I think it’s going to be a tough game but we’ll be going into it full of confidence.”