First Team 07/03/2019

Team News: Manchester City

Watch Javi Gracia's pre-Man City press conference above, or read on below.


By Kevin Affleck

Watford face the onerous task of finding a way to halt Manchester City's title charge this weekend, but Javi Gracia is able to do so with a full complement of players to choose from.

Every single member of Gracia's 26-man squad are fit and available in what is a perfectly timed clean bill of health as we approach the business end of the season, leaving the Head Coach with the full array of options if he decides to go toe to toe with the champions or rest some ahead of the FA Cup quarter-final tie with Crystal Palace next week.

“Today is a good day for me as I can tell you all my players are available for the next game,” Gracia said. “It is good news for us because it speaks well about all the people working around the team: the medical staff, all the workers in different departments are helping us to stay in the best condition for the competitions.”

Kiko Femenía is the only player who has been injured of late, but he is now fully recovered from the hamstring injury he sustained against Burnley.

“It's good for us as he was playing really well before the injury,” said Gracia. “He is a good option for us for the rest of the season.”

The injury record has been steadily improving over the past year, but it's now reached its zenith after a lot of hard work by a lot of people, led by Head of Rehabilitation and Injury Prevention, Alberto Leon Herranz.

“It's not fair to say it's only because of one thing or one person,” said Gracia. “It's not true. But if you try to take care of all the training sessions, take care of the medical side of things, take care of the food, take of the time you have to rest then you have more options to be in this important situation. All the people, in all the departments, are doing a very good job.”

The availability of his whole squad leaves Gracia with the difficulty of telling eight players they will be left behind this weekend. It's not a job he enjoys, but he'd much rather that than be scratching around trying to find 18 fit blokes. How he breaks the news to those not in the matchday squad of 18 varies.

“It depends on the week,” said Gracia. “When we practise set-pieces the day before, in that moment I sometimes tell the players directly that they are out of the list. In other weeks, we put the list on the dressing room and they read the list. We use different ways. It is not easy.”

If picking an 18 is tough, then selecting an XI is even harder, especially when you have the likes of Andre Gray, Sunday's match-winner, pushing Gerard Deulofeu so hard for the spot in the side alongside Troy Deeney.

“It's a very good option for us,” said Gracia. “They played together at the beginning of the season, getting very good results. In the last game when they played together, Andre score the goal in the last minutes. In the other games, we have played other players, like Gerard Deulofeu, against Cardiff, and we scored five goals, with Deulofeu scoring a hat-trick. The most important thing is we have different players who are able to show what they can do.”

Ladies 07/03/2019

Ladies: Gillingham Preview

By Chris Smith

Watford FC will be looking to extend their current unbeaten run as the Golden Girls travel to Gillingham Ladies this Sunday.

It was a good February for Armand Kavaja’s side, taking seven points out of a possible nine in the league and impressing in defeat in the SSE Women’s FA Cup.

The first game in March will be against a Gills side that recently progressed to the final of the FA WNL Plate. When the two teams met earlier in the season, a stunning second-half display saw Watford score six times and triumph 6-2.

Views from the Head Coach

A spare Sunday last weekend means Watford have had plenty of time to prepare for this game, as they look to follow up on a fine victory against Loughborough Foxes last time out.

“To be fair to Loughborough, they were a good side that looked after the ball well and caused us difficulties, especially in the first half,” Kavaja told watfordfc.com.

“In the second half we made some changes that helped us regain and retain the ball better and cause them more problems. We are pleased that we have a good squad of players that can make a difference when they are on the pitch.

“We hope that we can continue this current form until the end of the season, we will be tested and stretched during the next week or so as we have three games in that period.”

Included in that squad is a couple of players who have received call-ups to their respective International squads recently, which was the reason for no game last weekend.

“If there’s a reason to be happy to have a game off, that’s one,” explained Kavaja. “It shows that we have key players who have been doing well during the season and are getting recognition. Obviously, we hope that they come back fit and free of injuries!

“Having the weekend off has given us an opportunity to work on a few things and get some players back from injury.

“We have needed to work on parts in and out of possession to build on the good win against Loughborough. We have had the opportunity to go through the last game in the analysis room which has helped us to clarify a few bits.”

Gillingham are the opponents this weekend, as Watford will look to try and replicate the form, they showed in the second 45 minutes in the previous fixture between the two sides.

“It was a good 6-2 win for us against Gillingham last time, but it is important to note that we went in 1-0 down at half-time,” said Kavaja. “They caused us problems going forward that day.

“They’ve got some good attacking players who are good in possession and in one v ones, this is how they got their two goals last time, which came from penalties.

“We have to be more organised and not allow these players time and space to operate on Sunday.”

The Hosts

After winning promotion back to the third tier in 2016/17, Gillingham finished in ninth place the following campaign. They currently find themselves in the same position, although they’re on track to beat their points tally from last season.

Gillingham started the season with a 0-0 draw at home to Coventry United. A result that now looks very impressive considering it’s the only point Coventry have dropped all season.

Two consecutive 4-1 defeats in the league followed before they got their first victory with a 3-1 win away at C&K Basildon. They then lost another three on the bounce, including the 6-2 reverse to Watford.

The next five league games were spread over more than four months, with Gillingham going 3-1-1 in that time. Victories were recorded against QPR, Milton Keynes Dons and the double was completed against C&K Basildon.

The Gills have been involved in tight encounters in their last two, but lost to Cardiff and Oxford United, failing to score in both games.

One noticeable aspect of their form is that they’ve been impressive against those below them in the table, winning four out of a possible five in the league.

Funnily enough, it was a defeat to QPR which might have shaped their season. After losing in the Determining Round of the FA WNL Cup, Gillingham had to enter the FA WNL Plate and they’ve managed to reach the final with wins over Luton, Chesham, Stevenage and West Brom.

There are two chances for silverware as they’ve also reached the final of the Kent County Cup. Which has thrown up the bizarre situation of Gillingham taking on their development side in the final.

Last time out

Loughborough Foxes 1-2 Watford

Team: Baranowska, Hallsworth, Kettle, Edwards, Peck (Bell, 55), Scanlon (Carid, 55), Stojko-Down, O’Leary (Richards, 77), Kikomeko, Fatuga-Dada, Ward ©

Goals | Ward (57), Stojko-Down (84)

Gillingham 1-0 West Bromwich Albion

Team: Shanly, Powell, Ashton-Jones ©, Huntley, Manning, Monaghan, Seely, Fowler, Bussey (Giordani, 89), Farrand (Ahern, 90), George (Grant, 67)

Goal | Fowler (49)

Information

Gillingham Ladies FC v Watford FC Ladies
FA WNL
Sunday 10th March
2pm
Chatham Town FC
ME4 6LR