A thrilling 3-2 victory in midweek over Stoke City has Watford fans on Cloud Nine, but still aware of how easily Championship life can send you crashing back to Earth. The Hornets host a Coventry side suffering in the depths of 21st, but having beaten Top-of-the-Tree Reading a fortnight ago, City fans will know they have a chance of snatching the 3 points.
Aside from long-term absentees, Vladimir Ivić has nearly a full compliment of players to choose from. Troy Deeney was an unused substitute in midweek, and the duo of Will Hughes and Andre Gray are in line to start following brief cameos from the bench. Stipe Perica misses out though, with a return likely after the upcoming international break. Marc Navarro, Isaac Success and Adam Masina are expected to return in the early months of next year.
Ivić's Press Conference contained plenty of reflection. A smile curled at the lips of the Serbian on a few occasions and, perhaps due to the win the night previous, there was far more room for positivity. He praised the improvement in attacking shape, which had been criticised in the weeks prior; makeshift striker Ismaïla Sarr found himself drifting to the wings here and there, but he remained perfectly central for Wednesday's winner. The integration of the likes of Hughes and Capoue has been slow, but according to Ivić this isn't solely for fitness reasons but in order to adapt to his strict style of play. He stressed that, "like every other team", there are still problems that need to be fixed, but he appeared confident that these would be solved in time.
Unlike most others, it would be fair to say Coventry City benefitted from the coronavirus pandemic. Automatically promoted due to Points Per Game in League 1, the Sky Blues find themselves back in the second tier after two years away. It might be harsh to say that the premature end to the season had helped Mark Robins' side, as they confidently led the pack, with just 3 defeats to their name.
With 8 points on the board so far this campaign, Coventry sit in 21st, but with plenty to feel optimistic about. They fired 3 past league leaders Reading, more than they had conceded in the entirety of their previous games, and also bested Queens Park Rangers at St. Andrews, their temporary home. A 2-1 loss to Nottingham Forest was not the deserved result, and the hosts will be foolish to underestimate them.
The visitors have picked up just one point on their travels this campaign, in a 0-0 draw at Barnsley. Mark Robins typically deploys either 3 or 5 in defence, with wing-backs advancing past the midfield. As shown by Sam McCallum's wonder strike against Reading, they aren't afraid to cut in on the inside and shoot. Right Wing Back Fankaty Dabo is out following a string of injuries, Jordan Shipley is self-isolating and Striker Matt Godden limped off in midweek. The latter in particular would be a big miss if he fails to return to fitness. Forward Tyler Walker may also be on the sidelines.
Mark Robins' side deserved more than to go empty-handed following a late Lyle Taylor penalty to win the game for Forest.
Head to Head
Despite not competing in League competition since the 2011/12 season, the two clubs have met in recent memory. Watford's first win of the 2019/20 campaign was a 3-0 victory over the Sky Blues at Vicarage Road. Ismaïla Sarr scored his first in yellow, but it was a game remembered most fondly for a fantastic effort from Adalberto Peñaranda.
One player from that fixture who won't play a part this time around is Watford Academy graduate Brandon Mason. The Coventry left-back is currently on loan in Scotland with St.Mirren.
The last time the Hornets tasted defeat in this tie was in April 2011. Marlon King featured for the Sky Blues against his former club as the home side came out 2-0 victors.
Fan Favourites John Eustace and Rob Page are amongst the players to have plied their trade at both clubs. Eustace scored a graceful overhead kick against his former club to win Goal of the Season in 2010-11.
Who's the Threat?
Watford: Ismaïla Sarr
The Senegal international is starting to find his feet in the Championship. Netting in the past two midweek fixtures, Sarr has the potential to provide some highlights for the fans at home and headaches for the Coventry backline.
Coventry City: Gus Hamer
Often willing to put in a tough tackle, but adept with the ball at his feet, Gustavo Hamer has impressed so far in the Championship since he completed his move from Dutch outfit PEC Zwolle in the Summer. The Dutchman will likely have his name in the book come 5 pm this evening, but equally could have his name in lights following another strong performance.
Elliot's Score Prediction:
This will be undoubtedly a difficult game, and Vladimir Ivić will not want a repeat of the performances away at Wycombe and Barnsley. If they learn from those mistakes as they seemingly did against Stoke City, there shouldn't be too many problems against an injury-ridden Coventry side.
Watford 3-1 Coventry City
Kick-Off: 3 pm
Televised? No, but available on Hive Live as usual.
Referee: Simon Hooper
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