Walter Mazzarri said he asked a half-fit Valon Behrami to play tonight in what he described as an “emergency” situation.
Behrami, who has to be managed because of the state of his knees, was ruled out for weeks with a left hamstring problem after the 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace on Boxing Day and has not trained a single day since. Yet Mazzarri boldly asked him to play through the pain barrier tonight in a sure sign the head coach was feeling the heat. Behrami’s willingness to do so spoke volumes for his relationship with Mazzarri. Quique Sanchez Flores, on the other hand, regularly picked Ben Watson last season because Behrami apparently kept declaring himself unfit late on in the week.
“In the total emergency we are in, I took the responsibly of making Behrami play,” said the head coach. “We, as a team, needed players like him who go on the pitch no matter what. He gave a big contribution to the team.”
The decision looks to have backfired as Behrami, who was already hobbling, went down with what looked like a problem with his right knee. He carried on before eventually being replaced at half-time. He’ll definitely miss the FA Cup game against Burton and will now face a race against time to be fit for what looks like a crunch game against Middlesbrough. Watford are already short of midfielders, with Roberto Pereyra injured and Adlene Guedioura and Nordin Amrabat heading to the African Cup of Nations.
“Of course it was my my decision,” said Mazzarri. “It was something I had to do it as it was a total emergency.”
What was baffling was the sight of Behrami being involved in shooting practise before the game. He lashed an effort at Rene Gilmartin before grimacing and sinking to his haunches.