Team News: Everton
By Kevin Affleck
Javi Gracia will have the full range of options available to him after revealing all of his players are fit and ready to stick their hand up for selection in what he is expecting to be a high-octane game at Goodison Park on Monday.
The Head Coach anticipates “all of my players will be available for the next game”, which would suggest Will Hughes has shrugged off the problem that saw him forced off against Manchester City and that Adalberto Peñaranda has recovered from a foot problem.
While Peñaranda, Daryl Janmaat and Tom Cleverley will be short of match fitness and therefore unlikely to start a game against such high-energy opponents, they will come into the Head Coach's thinking when it comes to naming his seven-man bench.
The availability of 28 players will keep Marco Silva guessing as to the make-up of Watford's XI and Gracia believes the Hornets should focus on the threat they pose to Everton and not worry about what the Toffees have up their sleeve.
“It will be a tough game for both teams,” said the Head Coach. “If we play the same as we are doing, I am sure it will be demanding for them. We need to be more efficient and keep our defensive work as they have a very offensive style. We need to be ready to defend and to create chances we have created in other games.”
The game at Goodison Park has a further subplot because it is the first time the Hornets will come up against Silva since they parted company with the Portuguese coach in January. Gracia is too shrewd to be sucked into any battle with Silva, the man he replaced at Vicarage Road.
“I don't know him personally,” said the Spaniard. “He is making a good job in Everton. I respect him but now I am focused on my team thinking of the next game and that's all. I am looking forward to the game in the same way I did when we played against City or against Liverpool or against Leicester. We need the three points.”
The three points would come in handy right now as the Hornets are going through a sticky spell that has seen them win just two of the last 11. But Gracia is not overly concerned, believing he has seen enough in recent performances and in training to suggest a run of positives results is just around the corner.
“There are some who say we are playing well and others saying we are not playing well,” he said. “In my opinion, I think we are doing a lot of things well. I like to be demanding with my players because this way we will improve our results. But in this moment, I am not worried about if in the last games we weren't able to get some points because I think we are in the right way. By improving some things I think we are close to improving the results.”
The Hornets arguably deserved more from games against Manchester United, Fulham, Arsenal, Newcastle and possibly Leicester this season. Gracia is confident the Hornets remain on the right track and that they are not far away from turning losses into draws and draws into wins. He believes it's nothing a bit of old-fashioned hard work won't sort out.
“The level of the team and the way we are playing, I think maybe we deserve more in some games,” he said. “But the only way to change this situation is by working hard and improving. It's clear in the last games we have dominated possession, chances, the set-pieces: we control the game but we didn't finish the chances we had. We need to be more efficient and try to keep the same attitude in our defensive work and other faces of the game.”
Gracia said he was proud of the players and the way they pushed Manchester City all the way on Tuesday night and has not sensed a drop in morale.
“I think they have confidence in the way we are playing,” he said. “We have created many chances. Maybe the last one [against Man City] was different, but in all of the games we have played we were close to winning or getting some points. We want to get better results, you want to get points and this is the mentality we have in this moment. During training sessions they always keep the same attitude. It doesn't change because we get a good or bad result.”