Quqiue Sanchez Flores says Odion Ighalo is in the right frame of mind to play against Aston Villa on Saturday, despite the death of the Watford striker’s father on Monday.
Paul Ighalo passed away just hours after his son had played for the Hornets during the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Crystal Palace. It was an unexpected death, Odion’s brother Daniel, told Daily Sun Sports.
The Watford top scorer would’ve been granted compassionate leave by the Hornets if he had chosen to return to Lagos, Nigeria. However, he decided to stay in England and see out the remainder of Watford’s Premier League campaign.
Ighalo has trained this week and Sanchez Flores says he is ready to play against relegated Villa on Saturday.
“He has trained every day in a normal way,” said the Watford head coach, who lost his father Isidro in 2013. “Nothing has changed in his training. He has a strong mentality. For me, life is always more important than your profession, but cultures and families work differently. From the moment I found out his father passed away, I asked him: ‘Do you want to go back to Lagos?’ He told me no because he will go there at the end of the season. He is sad but focused on the game. He wants to dedicate the match to his father. He is the kind of player who doesn’t need extra motivation. He is an amazing player, a player who scored lots of goals for us at the start of the season. He is very clever.”
One man who will not be available to face Villa on Saturday is Etienne Capoue. The midfielder suffered a knee injury during the FA Cup semi-final defeat, leaving the field on a stretcher. It was feared he’d done serious damage but we understand he faces a fortnight on the sidelines. Sanchez Flores said this morning he wouldn’t be surprised if the France international doesn’t play again this season.
“Capoue will probably not play the rest of the season,” he said. “He is one of the main players during the season but now we have chances for other players. It is good it’s not a serious injury but we will wait and see.”
Capoue’s absence could see January signing Mario Suarez given an extended run. He replaced Capoue at Wembley, instead of Valon Behrami, and has shown promising signs in his last two performances that he is getting to grips with English football after a slow start at Vicarage Road.
“Mario is one of the possibilities,” Sanchez Flores said. “Watson, Behrami, Mario and Abdi can play in centre midfield. We have to imagine what we will find against Aston Villa.”
With Watford safe in the top flight it would seem the perfect opportunity for Sanchez Flores to give game time to the likes of Steven Berghuis and Obbi Oulare. Both have barely featured since joining the club last summer from AZ Alkmaar and Club Brugge, playing eight and three times respectively.
We put the question to Sanchez Flores this morning as to whether the duo will feature during Watford’s last four Premier League matches. His reply would indicate it’s unlikely.
“We need to have a look,” he said. “We will train more and make a decision in the next two days. I will choose the necessary players to win the next two matches. Oulare has been injured for the last month so he isn’t ready. Maybe other players will be coming.”