Valon Behrami will return from international duty next week with a battle on his hands to keep his shirt.
Behrami’s recent dip in club form hit a fresh low at Anfield on Sunday when he, along with Etienne Capoue, allowed Liverpool’s midfield to run amok at Anfield. Failing to break up play or make a tackle of note, he was eventually replaced by Ben Watson after an hour. Watson helped stemmed the bleeding and was involved in the visitors’ move of the match, one that culminated in Capoue forcing a smart save from Loris Karius.
Watson, who has only featured three times off the bench this season, is now pushing Behrami hard for his role at the base of Watford’s midfield.
“It was just nice getting back out on the pitch,” Watson, who played 41 times last season, told the club website. “It’s been a frustrating few months but the team has done brilliantly and I’ve just got to be patient. Getting back out there was great and hopefully there are a few more minutes to come.”
He could well get them at home to Leicester as Watford look to put right the wrongs against Liverpool.
“We never played well all day,” said Watson. “Everyone has accepted that in the changing room and we need to make sure that never happens again. It’s a game against the champions and it’s a game where we need to put in a performance not just for the manager but for the fans as well. We owe them a performance.”
Whether Behrami pays the price for his performance at Anfield with his place in the starting XI remains to be seen. Watson will certainly be fresher as Behrami is set to play for Switzerland against the Faroe Islands tomorrow. The selection call will be a test of Behrami’s relationship with Walter Mazzarri, which stretches back to their days together at Napoli.
“When I came here I found Behrami as a player in a perfect way,” said Mazzarri before the Swansea game. “He’s a very intelligent player, a player I like. He’s the first one to fight for the win.”
The first fight he has will be just to keep his place this week.