Team News: Southampton
Watch Javi Gracia's pre-match press conference above, or read on below.
By Kevin Affleck
Javi Gracia confirmed Troy Deeney is back training and he should be in the squad for the game against Southampton.
The captain has missed the last three games with a hamstring problem he admitted in his programme notes for the Huddersfield game had plagued him against Bournemouth.
His return means Gracia has Isaac Success, Gerard Deulofeu, Andre Gray, Stefano Okaka and Deeney vying for the two spots in attack.
“Troy and Andre were important in the first games, playing well, scoring goals,” said the Head Coach. “In this moment we are stronger with his [Deeney’s] comeback. He’s another option.”
Javi Gracia also said it was “very, very special” to have Tom Cleverley return to training this week.
Cleverley is not being considered for the game against Southampton because he has been out since January with a combination of hamstring and Achilles problems and needs more time, but Gracia feels the sight of the popular midfielder working with the main group adds to the feel-good factor at the training ground.
“Tom Cleverley is not fit, but this week he has started to train with the team, doing something with the team,” said the Head Coach. “I think this is very good news for us. To see him on the pitch at the same time with rest of the players is something very, very special.”
The return of Deeney and Cleverley leaves only Daryl Janmaat (knee) and Sebastian Prödl (hamstring) in the treatment room. When Gracia first arrived, in January, he had injury doubts over 12 players.
“The rest of the players are available,” said Gracia. “I am happy because I like all my players to be fit and healthy. I will then decide what is the best option for the next game. Now I can make the best choice for the next game with more options than other games.”
Gracia has to make at least one change from the game against Newcastle because Étienne Capoue is suspended. Nathaniel Chalobah appears to be the next cab off the rank, but the Head Coach was mightily impressed with how Ben Wilmot and Domingos Quina showed up in the Carabao Cup games, particularly the one against Tottenham.
“Chalobah is one of our options,” said Gracia. “We have other players, like, Ben Wilmot and Domingos Quina. Chalobah is one player who plays with national team in the last games. It’s a good options for us and everybody knows he is a very good player. We see what happens in the next game.”
Capoue will be sorely missed because he has arguably been Watford’s player of the season so far. Nobody has made more interceptions in Europe than the Frenchman with the telescopic legs. But you will not find Gracia bemoaning the loss of his midfield general. He is instead excited by the opportunity it presents for someone else.
“I prefer not to miss players I don’t have,” he said. “I have very good payers waiting for their chance and in this game we will see other players. I am sure all of them will play very, very well.”