Quique Sanchez Flores’ previous two sets of home and away matches against a side coached by Manuel Pellegrini were nothing if not entertaining and symmetrical.
There were identical 3-2 defeats for Atletico Madrid against Pellegrini’s Real Madrid in the 2009/10 season, games which featured goals for high-class attacking talents like Kaka, Gonzalo Higuain, Diego Forlan, Sergio Aguero and Jose Antonio Reyes. Honours ended even the following season, with Atletico’s 3-0 win at Malaga cancelled out by a shock win for Pellegrini’s side by the same scoreline at the Vincente Calderon stadium. The maligned Martin Demichelis was on the scoresheet that day while Manchester City No 2 Willy Caballero kept goal for Malaga against an Atletico attack spearheaded by Aguero.
A 2-0 home win this evening, to complete a hat-trick of symmetrical home and and away results between the pair, would be the perfect way to herald the start of the new year and leave Vicarage Road jumping with delight.
“We know we can be competitive Arsenal, against United against Liverpool, against Tottenham,” said Sanchez Flores. “We have confidence, we have power. We have the feeling we can be competitive against every single team.”
Armed with the two most feared strikers in the league, Watford will not be shy in coming forward tonight but they will not be committing hara kiri against a side Sanchez Flores respects enormously. His game plan will be fascinating.
“They are a very tough team, very difficult to play against these players,” he said. “They have a lot of tools. They can run, play with space, play with ball possession, they can play direct. They are not easy to stop. They were difficult to stop in August. They were scoring a lot and hadn’t conceded. We were trying to adapt to the category [at the time] and had just been training two months together. It’s a little bit different now.”
Isn’t it just.
“We know we have the quality to get a good result at home,” Valon Behrami told Hornets Player. “But it’s going to be more difficult now as teams know we have a great team and the team is performing well.”
Pellegrini will have done his homework, that’s for sure.
“He is one of the best managers in the Premier League,” said Sanchez Flores. “I love Pellegrini. He’s a gentleman. He said congratulations [after the game at the Etihad]. He said, ‘I love you to work here’. I respect a lot Pellegrini. He has an amazing name in Spain, as he did amazing at Villarreal [finishing second in 2008]. He worked really, really well at Real Madrid also.”
The Chilean had plenty to think about at half time of the game in August as Watford, by and large, kept his then free-scoring team at arm’s length.
“I’m not surprised Watford are doing so well – they have a very good coach and a good squad,” he said. “It will be a difficult game.”
Remember, if you are at the game, we’ll bring you everything being said during Sky Sports’ live coverage of the game. If you are at home or away, then we’ll bring you all the news, views, insight and updates from events at Vicarage Road in our live matchday blog.