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.”