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Jose Holebas poised to return as “positive” Watford seek to topple Chelsea

Jose Holebas is fit to enough to replace the ineligible Nathan Ake at left-back against Chelsea at Vicarage Road this evening.

Holebas has not played since the mauling at Southampton, through a combination of an injury to his lower right leg and the return from suspension of Ake. Ake is ineligible to play against his parent club this evening so Holebas, for the second time in just over a month, should come in from the cold to start against the champions.

“Holebas is fit, is OK and training with a good mentality,” said Sanchez Flores. “I think he’s ready.”

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Picture by Paul Dawson

Watford had resigned themselves very early on in the season to moving Holebas on in the transfer window, due to a combination of his attitude and the form of Nathan Ake. However, the Greece international has turned things around, both on and off the pitch, and is now considered a trustworthy and excellent deputy for Ake. The former Roma left-back was terrific against Chelsea and against Manchester City.

Guus Hiddink, the Chelsea manager, will have prepared his Chelsea side with Holebas in the Watford team. The Dutchman will also check his notes and remember how he needed to withdraw Cesc Fabregas and replace him with John Obi Mikel at half time of the game at Stamford Bridge to snuff out Watford’s threat in the key line between Chelsea’s defence and midfield.

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“Every time we play against every single team they go to the pitch thinking about Watford,” said Sanchez Flores who takes great pride in winning the tactical battle. “They change the shape. They try to protect against [Troy] Deeney, [Odion] Ighalo and play one midfield centre more. Teams at the top of the league change, play more defensive, because they are afraid of Watford. We need to keep humble… but have a lot of tools.”

They have even more tools since Mario Suarez and Nordin Amrabat signed, players with Champions League experience who can, if selected, help Watford go toe to toe with an improving Chelsea team who have not lost under Guus Hiddink.

“They have very good players, they have an amazing squad and amazing opportunity to change players,” said Watford’s head coach. “They have different variants and it is difficult to play against Chelsea as they have amazing power. We had the opportunity to win [against them in December] and finally we draw. We are really positive that we can do something. We have the tools and ideas on our plan.”