Watford will be boosted by the return of four key players for the visit of Everton, a game that starts a sequences of games Walter Mazzarri feels will decide their fate this season.
Daryl Janmaat has trained twice this week and is available after a sickening clash of heads last week with Adrian Mariappa. The Dutchman is likely to wear a protective mask. Younes Kaboul has, according to the head coach, recovered from the calf injury that saw him limp off after 20 minutes of the game against Stoke City and he will be in the squad. And, in a further boost, both Miguel Britos and Valon Behrami, two of Mazzarri’s trusty on-field lieutenants from his time at Napoli, are back from suspension.
“Janmaat is available,” confirmed the head coach before he was asked about whether he was fit enough, both mentally and physically, to start. “You will see the starting 11 once we are there but he is available and you will see.”
Isaac Success has also made further progress in his bid for fitness but he’s again likely to start from the bench as, according to Mazzarri, “he does not have the 90 minutes in his legs”. Roberto Pereyra, remember, is out through suspension.
Saturday’s game, against Everton, begins a run of half a dozen tasty clashes either side of Christmas. Next up are two tricky looking trips to Manchester City and a rejuvenated Sunderland followed by back-to-back home games against Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur. Then it’s Stoke away, on what is bound to be a cold Tuesday night, before a break for the FA Cup. We should know more about this evolving Watford side by then.
“The next six games will probably decide our future and decide if we are going to be in the Premier League in a certain way: if we are going to be up or playing in a different way, struggling more,” said the head coach. “These will decide this. We have been unlucky on injuries and in a couple of months on emergency, and now we have to understand how the next games answer on the pitch.”
Quique Sanchez Flores felt the narrow, gut-wrenching home defeats to Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City either side of Christmas knocked the stuffing out of his side. That and a little bit of the team thinking they had cracked it by wiping the floor with Liverpool. While the class of 2015/16 deviated either side of the form line, this lot have suffered fluctuating swings, wild ups and downs: following up, for example, a momentous win over Manchester United with a horror show at Burnley.
“If we want to grow as a team, it’s important that the team gets its identity,” said Mazzarri. “That identity has come under how I want the team to play. This is the main important thing. My teams like to play with ball possession, and all players can attack, so it means all players can score. It’s a characteristic I like my teams to have. The important thing is I want my team to score one more goal than the opposition, albeit we have not in the last couple of weeks.