Quique Sanchez Flores is still sweating over the fitness of key trio Jose Manuel Jurado, Miguel Britos and Craig Cathcart ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final tie with Arsenal.
We understand the triumvirate are yet to join in full training this week and spent yesterday out on the training field, away from the main group, under the watchful eye of the sports science team. Ben Dixon, who is responsible for the rehabilitation of the injured first-team players, is usually the member of the backroom team who helps the players make the gradual transition from physio room to full training.
A tie tomorrow against Hull City would probably have come too early for all three but the fact the quarter-final match is on Sunday means there are still two days of training for them to prove their fitness.
Jurado has already missed five games – his second five-game absence of the season – with a calf problem and hinted last week he was close to a return.
Sanchez Flores rushed his No 1 summer target back from his last lengthy layoff, against Manchester United at home, so will be loath to do so again but he knows the value of keeping the ball on the wide open spaces at the Emirates and would dearly love to be able to call on the 30-year-old’s ball-retention ability.
Britos was a very late withdrawal on Saturday with a hamstring injury. The Uruguayan has either been out injured or been substituted in seven of the last 17 games, his 30-year-old body feeling the pace at a period in the season when the games come thick and fast. “I feel when he’s on the pitch the concentration is very nice,” said Sanchez Flores recently, so the head coach will be keen to get his defensive kingpin fit for a game at a ground where Britos played for Napoli in 2013, losing 2-0 in the Champions League to goals from Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud.
Cathcart has been far more durable and last Wednesday’s game at Old Trafford was the first time this season he was not fit enough to start. The Northern Irishman was ruled out completely against Leicester City with a calf problem and will be desperate to get back in time for Sunday’s game so, among other things, he can face his old United teammate Danny Welbeck.
Joel Ekstrand is back in full training but this game has come way too early in his recovery from knee and hamstring problems. Tommie Hoban, who joined Watford from Arsenal as a teenager, is still in the treatment room with a groin and hip problem.