Marco Cassetti and Joel Ekstrand should both be fit for this Sunday’s televised table-topping clash with Nottingham Forest.

Cassetti had a minor foot injury last week and Ekstrand has been struggling with an ankle problem this summer, which resulted in him being taking off at half-time against Reading on Saturday.

However, head coach Gianfranco Zola confirmed both men were fit to play yesterday (Thursday) afternoon and long-term absentees Tommie Hoban and Nyron Nosworthy were the only players ruled out.

New signing Essaid Belkalem played 90 minutes in a friendly on Tuesday (see Page 70) but Zola suggested his debut was more likely to come in Wednesday’s League Cup tie with Bournemouth.

Zola said: “Essaid is not as fit as I would like and I am not sure if he will be involved on Sunday but we still have a game on Wednesday in the cup so he will certainly be involved in one of the two, but I haven’t decided which one.”

Watford, who are second, beat Nottingham Forest 2-0 and 3-0 last season but they have since appointed Billy Davies and sit top of the Championship with three wins out of three.

The Reds have also strengthened in the summer, signing players like QPR’s Jamie Mackie, Kelvin Wilson from Celtic, former Hull City defender Jack Hobbs and Swansea City’s old goalkeeper Dorus de Vries.

Zola said: “In terms of players, I think they are more or less the same [in terms of squad strength]. They have made a few changes but they are certainly stronger because they have a lot of confidence and they have balance. It is a team in a great moment and they are very dangerous.

“Along with the three teams relegated, I think us, Bolton, Leicester and Nottingham Forest are the ones who will be battling for promotion,” Zola added.

The Forest game is on Sunday at 1.15pm and will be shown live on Sky Sports 1.

Three days later they face Bournemouth in the League Cup and Zola confirmed he will again rest players after there were nine alterations to the starting XI in the last round against Bristol Rovers.

He said: “The number of changes depends on how we finish on Sunday and the conditioning of the players but there will certainly be changes.”