Late decision on keeper Manuel Almunia's hamstring likely ahead of Watford's trip to Manchester City in the FA Cup

Watford Observer: Plenty to ponder: Gianfranco Zola. Picture: Holly Cant Plenty to ponder: Gianfranco Zola. Picture: Holly Cant

Gianfranco Zola says Watford will “have to play the game of our life” if they are to shock Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium tomorrow but he maintains the opportunity to take on the Premier League champions is “important” in his side’s ongoing quest for improvement.

The Hornets, who will be backed by a 6,000-strong army of fans, go into the FA Cup third round tie priced as big as 18-1 to cause an upset against Roberto Mancini’s side and his former Italian team-mate is set to face some key selection issues ahead of the contest.

A late decision is likely to be made on the fitness of keeper Manuel Almunia after he sustained a hamstring problem in the first half of Tuesday’s 4-3 defeat against Charlton Athletic and played all the second period with strapping on his right thigh.

Almen Abdi sustained a kick to the pelvis in the match and Zola must also decide what strikers to play and whether to make changes to a defence that was poor, individually and collectively, as it shipped four goals.

However, the head coach was hopeful Lloyd Doyley would be available after a month-and-a-half on the sidelines when he spoke to the media on Wednesday, and Nyron Nosworthy is also an option after he was involved in a Watford match-day 18 for the first time in more than three months the previous day.

The City boss also has some selection decisions to make but irrespective of the side he picks, Watford will still be confronted with a team that cost many millions to assemble.

Looking ahead to the trip, Zola, who won the trophy twice as a Chelsea player, said: “It’s not going to be easy but it's OK.

“What I said before, for our team it will be important to play a team like Manchester City. If you want to get better, you need to play against better players so it will be good for us anyway. And in football you never know. It’s quite an unpredictable game.”

Given they are out of the Champions League and currently trail leaders Manchester United by seven points in the top flight, the FA Cup may represent City’s best chance of silverware this season. This could increase the pressure on Mancini’s men tomorrow but the Hornets head coach said: “I’m sure it is a competition they’re taking seriously so therefore we will require a good performance if we want to go through.”

Asked how you go about beating one of the most expensively-assembled teams in history, Zola smiled: “We have to beat them first and then I will tell you.

“Whoever they play, they will be competitive and strong in every single part of the pitch. So we certainly have to play the game of our life and certainly they need to under-perform.”

The Hornets go into the game on the back of a five-match unbeaten run on their travels and are also the Championship’s highest scorers on the road. However, both Tuesday’s defeat and the manner of it were not expected and Zola admitted the following day: “It comes as a surprise to me because we’ve been defending quite well recently and, honestly, I didn’t expect scoring three goals to lose a game anyway. So it’s something we are addressing and we are going to address in the next few days.”

Asked if he considered putting Nosworthy on as a substitute to attempt to firm up the defence, he responded: “I didn’t have the time because we were chasing the game all the time and then we scored the third goal in the second half and how long did it take? 20 seconds to 30 seconds for them to score again, so we were chasing the game and I didn’t have the time to make the changes at the back.”

City will be without eight first-team players for the Hornets’ visit but will still have several internationals to call on.

Sergio Agüero will miss out with a hamstring injury, while Maicon (knee), Jack Rodwell (hamstring), Aleksandar Kolarov (hip) and Micah Richards (knee) are also likely to be absent.

Mancini was dealt a further blow this week, with Yaya and Kolo Toure set to join up with the Ivory Coast squad for the African Cup of Nations tomorrow.

Samir Nasri is suspended after being sent off against Norwich City, while the potential involvement of Mario Balotelli is also in doubt after he was widely pictured having an apparent training ground bust-up with his manager yesterday.

Comments (24)

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9:00am Fri 4 Jan 13

jalvin says...

Pah, they're a mickey mouse side, easy win for us. Stroll in the park! They're so worried about playing us they've been fighting amongst themselves!
Bring on UTD in the 4th round.
Pah, they're a mickey mouse side, easy win for us. Stroll in the park! They're so worried about playing us they've been fighting amongst themselves! Bring on UTD in the 4th round. jalvin

9:01am Fri 4 Jan 13

Smilingburkinshaw says...

As long as we're in the game, to be something like 3-0 down after half an hour will be disappointing. Worried About defence without Fitz, even more so after Saturday! I'm a pessimist but really beginning to think that this is a very tall order. Atmosphere will be great though, just hope it's not killed by some early City goals.
As long as we're in the game, to be something like 3-0 down after half an hour will be disappointing. Worried About defence without Fitz, even more so after Saturday! I'm a pessimist but really beginning to think that this is a very tall order. Atmosphere will be great though, just hope it's not killed by some early City goals. Smilingburkinshaw

9:01am Fri 4 Jan 13

Watfordwes says...

Dzeko and tevez then... Easy!
Dzeko and tevez then... Easy! Watfordwes

9:43am Fri 4 Jan 13

buckler says...

Don't like the idea of going into a big game with a school kid in goal! 40k + expected .
Don't like the idea of going into a big game with a school kid in goal! 40k + expected . buckler

9:49am Fri 4 Jan 13

pete50 says...

With the ticket allocations I'm billy no mate tomorrow- any pub near the ground you guys are going to?
With the ticket allocations I'm billy no mate tomorrow- any pub near the ground you guys are going to? pete50

10:14am Fri 4 Jan 13

rousman 2 says...

pete50 wrote:
With the ticket allocations I'm billy no mate tomorrow- any pub near the ground you guys are going to?
Play Nosworthy Neuton is a disaster waiting to happen.
[quote][p][bold]pete50[/bold] wrote: With the ticket allocations I'm billy no mate tomorrow- any pub near the ground you guys are going to?[/p][/quote]Play Nosworthy Neuton is a disaster waiting to happen. rousman 2

10:35am Fri 4 Jan 13

Hampshire hornet says...

There will be 5999 other supporters there, you will be fine..
There will be 5999 other supporters there, you will be fine.. Hampshire hornet

10:37am Fri 4 Jan 13

ORBY says...

Be positive, go to scrape a win and if we get a draw bring them back to the Vic and then hammer them!!
Be positive, go to scrape a win and if we get a draw bring them back to the Vic and then hammer them!! ORBY

10:41am Fri 4 Jan 13

DuncanWelbourne'sshinpad says...

Well we all know that football can kick you in the teeth when you least expect it.

After a disastrous week for City have a gut feel it might be

" Eh Tu, Franco !!! " and by 5.15 p.m. "Arrivederci, Roberto !!! "

Stranger things have happened.

COYH
Well we all know that football can kick you in the teeth when you least expect it. After a disastrous week for City have a gut feel it might be " Eh Tu, Franco !!! " and by 5.15 p.m. "Arrivederci, Roberto !!! " Stranger things have happened. COYH DuncanWelbourne'sshinpad

10:45am Fri 4 Jan 13

Mickey Quinn, not so thin says...

rousman 2 wrote:
pete50 wrote:
With the ticket allocations I'm billy no mate tomorrow- any pub near the ground you guys are going to?
Play Nosworthy Neuton is a disaster waiting to happen.
yes but after he picks the ball out of the back of the net, have you seen how well he passes the ball back to the centre circle for play to resume? Pure class !
[quote][p][bold]rousman 2[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]pete50[/bold] wrote: With the ticket allocations I'm billy no mate tomorrow- any pub near the ground you guys are going to?[/p][/quote]Play Nosworthy Neuton is a disaster waiting to happen.[/p][/quote]yes but after he picks the ball out of the back of the net, have you seen how well he passes the ball back to the centre circle for play to resume? Pure class ! Mickey Quinn, not so thin

11:18am Fri 4 Jan 13

Hampshire hornet says...

Mickey Quinn, not so thin wrote:
rousman 2 wrote:
pete50 wrote:
With the ticket allocations I'm billy no mate tomorrow- any pub near the ground you guys are going to?
Play Nosworthy Neuton is a disaster waiting to happen.
yes but after he picks the ball out of the back of the net, have you seen how well he passes the ball back to the centre circle for play to resume? Pure class !
Brilliant!
[quote][p][bold]Mickey Quinn, not so thin[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]rousman 2[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]pete50[/bold] wrote: With the ticket allocations I'm billy no mate tomorrow- any pub near the ground you guys are going to?[/p][/quote]Play Nosworthy Neuton is a disaster waiting to happen.[/p][/quote]yes but after he picks the ball out of the back of the net, have you seen how well he passes the ball back to the centre circle for play to resume? Pure class ![/p][/quote]Brilliant! Hampshire hornet

11:18am Fri 4 Jan 13

Hampshire hornet says...

Mickey Quinn, not so thin wrote:
rousman 2 wrote:
pete50 wrote:
With the ticket allocations I'm billy no mate tomorrow- any pub near the ground you guys are going to?
Play Nosworthy Neuton is a disaster waiting to happen.
yes but after he picks the ball out of the back of the net, have you seen how well he passes the ball back to the centre circle for play to resume? Pure class !
Brilliant!
[quote][p][bold]Mickey Quinn, not so thin[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]rousman 2[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]pete50[/bold] wrote: With the ticket allocations I'm billy no mate tomorrow- any pub near the ground you guys are going to?[/p][/quote]Play Nosworthy Neuton is a disaster waiting to happen.[/p][/quote]yes but after he picks the ball out of the back of the net, have you seen how well he passes the ball back to the centre circle for play to resume? Pure class ![/p][/quote]Brilliant! Hampshire hornet

11:44am Fri 4 Jan 13

pete50 says...

rousman 2 wrote:
pete50 wrote:
With the ticket allocations I'm billy no mate tomorrow- any pub near the ground you guys are going to?
Play Nosworthy Neuton is a disaster waiting to happen.
I agree, but is he down the pub earlier???
[quote][p][bold]rousman 2[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]pete50[/bold] wrote: With the ticket allocations I'm billy no mate tomorrow- any pub near the ground you guys are going to?[/p][/quote]Play Nosworthy Neuton is a disaster waiting to happen.[/p][/quote]I agree, but is he down the pub earlier??? pete50

12:43pm Fri 4 Jan 13

northofwatfordpete says...

A score draw is more than possible - the pressure will be on City and Mancini.
City have found scoring hard this season and whereas we have found it relatively easy, especially away from home.We have the capability to nick one or two.

I remain optimistic.
A score draw is more than possible - the pressure will be on City and Mancini. City have found scoring hard this season and whereas we have found it relatively easy, especially away from home.We have the capability to nick one or two. I remain optimistic. northofwatfordpete

1:02pm Fri 4 Jan 13

JohnnyHornet says...

Hampshire hornet wrote:
Mickey Quinn, not so thin wrote:
rousman 2 wrote:
pete50 wrote:
With the ticket allocations I'm billy no mate tomorrow- any pub near the ground you guys are going to?
Play Nosworthy Neuton is a disaster waiting to happen.
yes but after he picks the ball out of the back of the net, have you seen how well he passes the ball back to the centre circle for play to resume? Pure class !
Brilliant!
He'll be busy tomorrow then, COYGB.
[quote][p][bold]Hampshire hornet[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Mickey Quinn, not so thin[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]rousman 2[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]pete50[/bold] wrote: With the ticket allocations I'm billy no mate tomorrow- any pub near the ground you guys are going to?[/p][/quote]Play Nosworthy Neuton is a disaster waiting to happen.[/p][/quote]yes but after he picks the ball out of the back of the net, have you seen how well he passes the ball back to the centre circle for play to resume? Pure class ![/p][/quote]Brilliant![/p][/quote]He'll be busy tomorrow then, COYGB. JohnnyHornet

1:52pm Fri 4 Jan 13

darrenbazeley says...

Anyone know where I can watch/stream the match?
Anyone know where I can watch/stream the match? darrenbazeley

2:31pm Fri 4 Jan 13

CARDIFFHORN says...

Gutted can't go, performance more important than result,let's just get this match out of the way.
Gutted can't go, performance more important than result,let's just get this match out of the way. CARDIFFHORN

3:47pm Fri 4 Jan 13

DuffmanWFC says...

So MickeyQuinn you still don't think we should sign another goalie?
Would be good as a injury to Almunia and especially in Feb could kill our season as we don't have good enough cover!
So MickeyQuinn you still don't think we should sign another goalie? Would be good as a injury to Almunia and especially in Feb could kill our season as we don't have good enough cover! DuffmanWFC

3:55pm Fri 4 Jan 13

france50 says...

in the green pub ducie st 5mins from station from 12 sports bar with food!!
in the green pub ducie st 5mins from station from 12 sports bar with food!! france50

5:03pm Fri 4 Jan 13

Mickey Quinn, not so thin says...

DuffmanWFC wrote:
So MickeyQuinn you still don't think we should sign another goalie?
Would be good as a injury to Almunia and especially in Feb could kill our season as we don't have good enough cover!
A loan would seem in order, but only if he's going to miss more than one match.
[quote][p][bold]DuffmanWFC[/bold] wrote: So MickeyQuinn you still don't think we should sign another goalie? Would be good as a injury to Almunia and especially in Feb could kill our season as we don't have good enough cover![/p][/quote]A loan would seem in order, but only if he's going to miss more than one match. Mickey Quinn, not so thin

7:24pm Fri 4 Jan 13

Boosey says...

darrenbazeley wrote:
Anyone know where I can watch/stream the match?
Someone told me today, first row sports/front row sports? Not entirely sure but hope that helps.
[quote][p][bold]darrenbazeley[/bold] wrote: Anyone know where I can watch/stream the match?[/p][/quote]Someone told me today, first row sports/front row sports? Not entirely sure but hope that helps. Boosey

8:01pm Fri 4 Jan 13

DuffmanWFC says...

Mickey Quinn, not so thin says...
5:03pm Fri 4 Jan 13

DuffmanWFC wrote:
So MickeyQuinn you still don't think we should sign another goalie?
Would be good as a injury to Almunia and especially in Feb could kill our season as we don't have good enough cover!


A loan would seem in order, but only if he's going to miss more than one match.

Duffman Says:
Change of tune mate lol
How can you ever know a player will only miss one game if he gets injured?
A loan quality keeper who can be a first choice is required if not the decision not to do something in Jan can seriously damage our season. Also you can't get an emergency loan if you have two professional goalies on the books who arnt injured!
Mickey Quinn, not so thin says... 5:03pm Fri 4 Jan 13 DuffmanWFC wrote: So MickeyQuinn you still don't think we should sign another goalie? Would be good as a injury to Almunia and especially in Feb could kill our season as we don't have good enough cover! A loan would seem in order, but only if he's going to miss more than one match. Duffman Says: Change of tune mate lol How can you ever know a player will only miss one game if he gets injured? A loan quality keeper who can be a first choice is required if not the decision not to do something in Jan can seriously damage our season. Also you can't get an emergency loan if you have two professional goalies on the books who arnt injured! DuffmanWFC

10:42pm Fri 4 Jan 13

Mickey Quinn, not so thin says...

No, that's exactly what i said before. You assess his injury to estimate the games you need to cover, though the point in your last sentence might be an issue !
No, that's exactly what i said before. You assess his injury to estimate the games you need to cover, though the point in your last sentence might be an issue ! Mickey Quinn, not so thin

10:20am Sat 5 Jan 13

JohnnyHornet says...

Don't risk Almunia whatever, for this game, unless we are going to get another quality keeper in as cover for the season.
Don't risk Almunia whatever, for this game, unless we are going to get another quality keeper in as cover for the season. JohnnyHornet

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