Joel Ekstrand will make his long-awaited comeback from a career-threatening knee injury for Watford Under-21s this afternoon and stake a claim to be included in Watford’s revised Premier League squad.
The Sweden international has not played since he was carried off on a stretcher against Ipswich Town in March after fracturing a bone and damaging the meniscus in his left knee. He underwent surgery at the hands of Ramon Cugat, the specialist from Barcelona who has treated Pep Guardiola, Xavi and Samuel Eto’o, and has been been undergoing painstaking rehabilitation under the watchful eye of Richard Collinge and Mike Spanou.
The central defender has been training with the first team for the last six weeks and it has been decided now is the time for Ekstrand, who turns 27 next month, to test his knee in a game, against Brentford at Clarence Park.
Sanchez Flores is an admirer of Ekstrand and could create a spot for him in his 25-man squad which is resubmitted at the end of this month. At least three foreign players spots will become available following the departure of Alessandro Diamanti, the impending exit of Victor Ibarbo and the fact Essaid Belkalem has not even made a matchday squad this season.
“It is possible [he could make the squad],” said Sanchez Flores. “He’s not completely ready but I do like Ekstrand. He has been training training with us and is is very close [to a full recovery]. We have to manage this situation because I would like to keep Ekstrand with us.”
Ekstrand is out of contract in the summer
“I’m in the middle of my career and have a few years left to play yet, I hope,” Ekstrand told us in an exclusive interview in October. “The main thing for me is getting fit and getting back playing. I will push myself to get back as quick as any player would. Yes, my contract goes out in the summer but I don’t focus on that. I have my reputation, they [the club] know what I can do and what I can’t. I need to prove my fitness to even think about [a new contract].”