Watford's Valon Behrami (centre) leaves the pitch after picking up an injury during the Premier League match at Vicarage Road, Watford.

Injury-hit Watford struggling for numbers ahead of Tottenham clash

Watford look certain to be without Daryl Janmaat and Valon Behrami for the visit of Tottenham Hotspur on New Year’s Day as injuries continue to bite hard.

Both players limped off inside 12 minutes, hobbled out of Vicarage Road and are not expected to recover in time for the game with Spurs on Sunday. “In my whole career, I’ve never lost two players in the first 10 minutes [to injury],” said Walter Mazzarri.

Watford's Valon Behrami (centre) leaves the pitch after picking up an injury during the Premier League match at Vicarage Road, Watford.

Behrami was highly unlikely to play two games in less than a week anyway but the manner in which he pulled up with a hamstring problem and was immediately substituted suggests he has no chance of making the game on Sunday.

Janmaat went off even earlier with a groin problem, sustained when tackling Wilfried Zaha and knocking the ball out for a corner. The Dutchman, who has already been out with shoulder and facial injuries this season, looked in some discomfort when he left the ground yesterday. In a further blow to Mazzarri, Miguel Britos will also miss the game through suspension, his second of the season, after he picked up a fifth booking of the campaign. Craig Cathcart could be in line for his first start since Burnley away.

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Stefano Okaka and Isaac Success were both not considered because of hamstring problems and the fact they were not even considered fit enough for the bench does not augur well for the Spurs game. Success has played just 64 minutes since the 1-0 win over Middlesbrough on October 16. He played 33 games for Granada last season. Ben Watson is fit but has not been available for the last two games because of a family issue.

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“We need to work with the players we have available, we don’t have a lot,” said Heurelho Gomes. “The players who come in have to be prepared.”

Teenage striker Michael Folivi warmed up with the squad on Monday and there is a fair chance a few of his under-23 teammates, like Wales Under-19 midfielder Rhyle Ovenden, could be on the bench or in the travelling squad against Spurs as Watford are so low on numbers.

We asked Gomes post-match if he had known an injury crisis like it in his 14-year professional career. “No, not like we are having at the minute,” said the goalkeeper. Gomes went onto to give a rather wooly and convoluted answer to a question about just why Watford have had 36 injuries this season compared to 28 in the whole of last season.

Former head of medical Richard Collinge with Etienne Capoue
Former head of medical Richard Collinge with Etienne Capoue

“Sometimes we play games closer to each other, sometimes we have long time to recover but we don’t recover, because we train hard,” Gomes explained. “The players are trying to get used to the way but I believe it’s up to us.

“Sometimes in a game like this, the way we played today, most of the players probably felt the way we trained yesterday, not hard but different. We need to do that because we trained early and we did less yesterday. Normally we do more than yesterday but because it’s a special day, to play a game Boxing Day is not the best day.”

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We think the point he was getting at was that, lately, Watford’s schedule has been disrupted by the festive period but then it’s the same for everyone else in the league and was the same last season. Watford still had eight days to prepare for the Palace game yet lost two players inside 12 minutes to muscle injuries. There was a fear they had also lost Gomes when he was clutching his left leg towards the end. “No injury for me but I felt tired,” said the goalkeeper. “I know when my body is saying ‘oh, be careful’.”