Team News: Manchester United
Watch Javi Gracia's pre-match press conference above, or read on below.
By Kevin Affleck
José Holebas has recovered from the injury that forced him off in the FA Cup quarter-final and is ready to play a key part in a season-defining eight days for the club.
The Hornets play Manchester United on Saturday and Fulham on Tuesday as they bid to pick up valuable points in the push for seventh spot. Then there is the matter of an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley a week on Sunday as the Golden Boys chase a first cup final appearance since 1984.
Javi Gracia can plan for the sequence of games knowing his premier left-back has shaken off the injury that forced him off at half-time against Crystal Palace. He is in line to add to his 26 appearances this season, three goals and six assists.
“Holebas is available for the next game,” said the Head Coach. “He has been a very important player for us this season. We hope he is as important in the rest of the games we have to play. His experience, his commitment is important for the team. His attitude and his ability to be demanding is the reason he is able to do this at 34. He is 35 in the summer but I am sure he will be important the next season as well.”
The return of Holebas is offset by an injury to Tom Cleverley, who is the only member of the 26-man squad unavailable this weekend. The midfielder, 29, injured a calf and is a doubt for the semi-final against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
“We'll see his evolution in the next weeks as he has a problem,” said Gracia. “The rest of the players are available and ready to play. Andre Gray had a small problem last week after the last game, but he has been training all week. He is ready to compete as well.”
The absence of Cleverley, for the game against his former club Manchester United, opens the door for Domingos Quina and Nathaniel Chalobah. Quina, who played for Portugal Under-20s in midweek, was last on the bench against Manchester City, while Chalobah came on for the dying stages of the win over Everton.
“With Tom injured we have to find another midfield option,” said Gracia. “Always it is bad news to lose a good player, but we have other good players waiting for their chances. Domingos and Chalo are training really well and they are ready to show their level.”
With a near fully-fit squad, Gracia has the option of juggling his resources and making full use of the depth of his squad for this seminal week.
“We have a good squad," he said. “I can take different decisions and I try to choose the best option. We know to play against United will be very tough. We need to focus on that game. We have time to recover after the Fulham game and prepare for the semi-final. The most important game is the United one.”
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