Team News: West Ham United
Watch Javi Gracia's pre-match press conference above, or read on below.
By Kevin Affleck
Javi Gracia is delighted to be able to welcome back Étienne Capoue for the trip to West Ham United, believing the returning Frenchman gives his side an added dimension.
Capoue has missed the last three matches through suspension, which proved untimely and unjust one for the midfield general as it interrupted the best period of his Watford career and possibly his entire career.
He was the top interceptor in Europe at one point, with his performance at Fulham an early contender for Display of the Season. Gracia had no qualms in labelling in as “one of the best midfielders in the Premier League” and he is thrilled to be able to call on his services once more.
“Everybody knows he is a very important player for us,” said Gracia, who has got the best out of the Frenchman from day one, away at Stoke City. “After his suspension he is back and his comeback makes us stronger. We have more options now he is available. We'll try to choose the best line-up like we usually do. We know we play five games in 15 days and all of the players are important and they know it.”
The return of Capoue looks likely to be the only change to the matchday 18 as there is no news to report on players returning from the treatment room.
“We have the same players out of the team,” said Gracia. “Will Hughes, Andre Gray, Sebastian Prödl and Adalberto Peñaranda are all out of the team. We'll see for the next games if they are ready.”
Asked who is nearest to a return, Gracia said: “Sebastian and Will are the players closest. Sebastian has a problem in his knee. Maybe tomorrow he is ready and we'll see.”
The wait to see Peñaranda in a Watford shirt continues as the exciting forward is still sidelined by a foot issue.
“It's the same,” said Gracia. “In his recovery he felt some pain in his foot so he needs some time. The medical staff tell me he will be ready to train with the team in the next few days.”
Gracia also reported Tom Cleverley and Nathaniel Chalobah “both need more time” before they are properly match sharp, while Domingos Quina continues to show the huge promise Gracia saw when he first clapped eyes on him in August.
“When he came, I could see it from the first day,” said the Head Coach. “I knew he was a very good player, but he needs time. He is only 19 and he needs to live different experiences, to make mistakes and to learn.
“After playing two good games, everyone is speaking about him, but he needs time to improve and grow. In this moment I have to protect him a little bit knowing he's important for us now and in the future.”
Gracia was asked if Quina had a point to prove on Saturday when he returns to the club where he spent two years yet failed to make a Premier League appearance.
“I don't know,” said Gracia. “For me it is important he is playing with us. We are happy to have one player like Domingos and I am sure he is going to grow day by day and he will be a better player in the future. He has a very good character, he is humble, but he has a lot of ambition and desire. He always trains very hard and he doesn't need to change anything about his personality. He is young, 19 years old, and he has to improve many things, but I think he's in the right place to become a better player in the future.”
Holebas is nearly 15 years older than Quina, but he is showing you can teach an old dog new tricks. He is playing at the peak of his powers and has been involved in seven of the team's goals this season, the most by any defender in the league.
“José is a great player and is showing this in all the games,” said Gracia. “He is assisting, playing well, defending and playing with a very good spirit and attitude. His experience is always important and it is good to have players like him. He's like a good wine.”