Team News | Chelsea

Watch Javi Gracia's pre-Chelsea press conference above - free to view, no sign-up required.

A late decision will be made on the availability of Tom Cleverley ahead of Monday night’s televised fixture against Chelsea.

The midfielder limped off during Wednesday’s goalless draw at Stoke, his first game back since suffering a hamstring injury against Southampton in mid-January.

His fitness will now be assessed over the coming days as the Hornets continue to prepare for the visit of Antonio Conte’s side.

Speaking at his pre-Chelsea press conference today, Javi Gracia also confirmed that Heurelho Gomes, Craig Cathcart and Younès Kaboul are not yet ready to return.

He said: “They are not yet ready but I hope like the other players who are injured that they will be back soon. I think with the players we do have we can still do some good work.”

Watford's new winger Dodi Lukebakio could come into contention on Monday

Miguel Britos, Kiko Femenía and Will Hughes remain sidelined.

Gerard Deulofeu, Dodi Lukebakio and Didier Ndong all signed at the end of the January transfer window and Gracia admitted he was pleased with the additions.

“I’m happy with the players who are with me. We tried to improve the players we had and I hope the new players will help us to improve the level of the team,” he said.

“We have three new players in three positions that I think we needed to improve, and I’m confident they will give us good results.

“Ndong plays in a position where we needed to have more possibilities. Lukebakio can play on either side, and Gerard is also a player who can play on the right or the left with good qualities to attack.”


U23 Reaction | “If You’re Good Enough You’re Old Enough”

Hayden Mullins says Lewis Gordon, the 16-year-old full-back, can make the Under-23 left-back spot his own after he made a promising debut against Cardiff City.

The club have demonstrated their commitment to youth and their resolve to promote their most highly-rated players by recently including scholars Gordon, Ben Jones, Ryan Cassidy, Reece Stray and Jesus Cruz Cabrera in Hayden Mullins' side.

Gordon made his debut against the Bluebirds and looked at home on the left side of a four-man defence, showing exactly why he played for the first-team in a pre-season friendly and why he's recently been training with Javi Gracia's team.

"He's doing really well," said Mullins.

"He started off well, playing that friendly in pre-season with the first-team. He's done really well in the 18s and he trained again with the first-team last week.

"With Brandon Mason going out on loan, there is a spot at left-back and it's up for grabs. David Sesay has played there but if Lewis does well he could end up making it his own."

Jones and Cassidy should also become fixtures in the 23s between now and the end of the season. Jones made his second successive start against Cardiff, playing out of position at right-back instead of centre-half while Cassidy, a prolific striker at Under-16 and Under-18 level, came off the bench for the second time this week.

"We had the friendly in Holland against Ajax," explained Mullins.

"We played them and got a very good win over there. Ben came on early on over there and played very well in a back-three. He played against Palace on Monday and did well again. He played in a different role today as we lost Andrew Eleftheriou to illness and he filled that right-back role really well.

"Ryan Cassidy is one who has been doing really well in the 18s, scoring goals and making a name for himself and we've now given him the chance to progress and impress with the Under-23s."

With Mason, Charlie Rowan, Harvey Bradbury, Connor Stevens, Randell Williams and Michael Folivi all out on loan, opportunity will continue to knock for the club's outfield scholars.

"We want to try and push people up and get people out of their comfort zone," said Mullins.

"If you are good enough you are old enough, and if we think they'll benefit from playing in the 23s then the club will do it."

The move paid off against Cardiff with the scholars dovetailing well with young pros like Carl Stewart - who was on the bench for the first-team at Stoke on Wednesday - Dennon Lewis, Ashley Charles, Sesay, Max Ryan and Dion Pereira to claim a 1-1 draw with Cardiff in the Premier League Cup.

Charles popped up in the last minute to cancel out the opener from former Hornet Ogo Obi. 

"I think we did alright," said Mullins.

"I think we deserved a draw at least. They had a little spell in the first-half we dealt with and we had a spell towards the end of the first-half when we were very good as well.

"In the second-half it  was an even game and to get back in it in the 90th minute shows the character. I'm very pleased with the spirit. We showed maturity. We've got a few boys out on loan but the ones who have stayed have shown a real togetherness and it's been really good."

The draw against Cardiff leaves the Hornets, with three home games to come, well-placed to qualify from their group and reach the last 16.

"It's a competition we want to see how well we can do in," said Mullins.

"We've beat a Cat 1 side in Southampton, we had a disappointing night at Blackburn but they've now got to come to us as well as Cardiff. It's pleasing to have four points at this stage of the competition."

The Hornets can confirm that Under-23 goalkeeper Nathan Gartside has been recalled from his loan spell with Chelmsford City.