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Watford striker Troy Deeney a doubt for Derby County clash
Troy Deeney could miss his first Championship game of the season when Watford take on Derby County tomorrow (Saturday) as the striker is struggling with a calf strain.
Deeney has started every league match this season and his only absences during the 2013/14 campaign was when he was rested for two League Cup ties.
The 25-year-old, who has scored six goals in 12 outings this season, has a calf strain and yesterday (Thursday) head coach Gianfranco Zola said “unfortunately we still don’t know if Troy will be fit”.
If Deeney is unable to recover in time, Zola has a tough decision to make regarding who replaces the club’s top scorer. Does he opt for striker Javier Acuna or the creative duo of Fernando Forestieri and Diego Fabbrini?
Acuna was forced off injured during his last Hornets start at Blackburn Rovers but scored his only goal for the club in the game before that against Norwich City.
Or does Zola opt for Forestieri and Fabbrini, who may be a similar type of player but are both in impressive form?
Zola said: “We have options should Troy not make it. Troy allows us to play in a certain way so if we were without him then we would need to play differently. We are prepared for all outcomes.”
Watford will again be without another of their influential players, Almen Abdi. The current Player of the Year has not featured since August 31 due to a foot injury.
Zola initially expected Abdi to return in mid-September but after several delays, the Golden Boys’ head coach had hoped the midfielder would be fit following the two-week international break.
However, Zola confirmed: “Whilst Almen has been better, he is still not ready yet. He has been improving but very slowly and not as quickly as we had hoped.
“He still has pain in his foot when it comes to changing direction. He is fine running in straight lines but changing direction is a problem. It is in a place where it could become more of a problem if it is not treated properly.”
Watford had seven players on international duty (see Page 70) and Zola says he expects all of them to be eligible for selection against Derby.
Essaid Belkalem was back in training on Monday and Jonathan Bond and Cristian Battocchio returned on Wednesday. The players were off yesterday so Lloyd Doyley, Ikechi Anya, Sean Murray and Connor Smith were expected to return to training today.
“All the player who were on international duty are fit and everybody else is looking good as well,” Zola added.
Derby have recently hired former England manager Steve McClaren after sacking Nigel Clough, who had been the country’s fourth longest-serving manager after four-and-a-half years at Pride Park.
McClaren was hired on October 1 and after a rousing half-time speech which helped Derby secure a draw after being 4-1 down, his first official game in charge ended with a 3-1 win at Leeds United.
When asked about the difficulties of preparing to face a team who have recently changed manager, Zola replied: “The team is still the same and in such a short space of time it is hard for a manager to change things. I am sure he is trying to change certain things but we are prepared for them.
“But the important thing is we need to play the best we can and they need to be prepared for us as well.”
Tomorrow’s game sees two of the highest scorers in the Championship go head-to-head. Watford lead the way with 22 goals in 11 games and Derby are joint second with Burnley, although the Rams are the top scorers away from home.
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