Gianfranco Zola believes the difficulty of Watford’s match at Middlesbrough tomorrow will be determined by how his side perform at the Riverside.

The Hornets, who could be without Joel Ekstrand due to a groin injury, make the long trip to Teesside on the back of their disappointing 3-0 loss against Leicester City last weekend.

Zola admitted after the defeat a number of his players are underperforming and he said on Wednesday Watford will find it “very tough” at Boro if they fail to produce a strong display.

He explained: “I saw them play against Blackpool and they looked like they have good organisation but then there are no easy games in the Championship.

“The level of difficulty will be determined by our performance. If we perform well then the opposition may look bad but if we don't perform in the way we can, then it will be very tough for us.”

Middlesbrough are currently 16th in the Championship after making a poor start to the campaign.

Their disappointing form meant Tony Mowbray was sacked on October 21 and Boro have won once and lost once since his departure.

Zola confirmed on Wednesday that Ekstrand was the only fresh doubt after he felt a problem in his groin in training.

Tommie Hoban remains a long-term absentee due to an ankle injury and while Nyron Nosworthy returned to action last week with the Under-21 squad, he is not yet ready to make a return to the first team.

Almen Abdi has been out since the end of August with a foot injury and when asked about the possibility of the 27-year-old returning this weekend, Zola replied: “I can't say too much. It looks like he is feeling better and getting better but I don't want to put too much pressure on him.

“He is already stressed because he has been out for a long time and I want him to take his time and be ready without setbacks anymore. He is better but he is not ready.”

New loan signing George Thorne could make his debut for Watford after the midfielder joined on a two-month loan deal on Wednesday.

The Hornets have suffered mixed fortunes at the Riverside in recent years, winning two but losing three of the last five matches.