Watford head coach Javi Gracia has defended his decision to make seven changes for the team's Premier League match away at champions Manchester City.

The Hornets were beaten 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday evening after going behind to a controversial goal, but before the game there was a lot of focus on Gracia's decision to make seven changes to his starting lineup.

Skipper Troy Deeney was one of a number of regular starters to be dropped to the bench, sparking speculation that the head coach was resting his key players for this weekend's FA Cup quarter final.

However, Gracia said after the game that he believed the team he chose was the best one to compete against City and that he would still pick the same team again.

"If I have to take my decision again, I will do it the same way," he said.

"I’ve chosen for this game these players, it’s because before the game I thought we needed fresh legs to compete today to defend well and run a lot.

"We have lost the game – in my opinion we’ve competed well against a very good team and now we can focus on the FA Cup, we will try to get a good result and try to carry on in that competition."

Gracia has regularly made changes to his starting lineup this season, in particular in the FA Cup.

In January he was criticised by pundit Chris Sutton, who labelled the Hornets' boss a "disgrace" for making 11 changes against Newcastle, a game they won 2-0.

However, with his side currently devoid of injury setbacks, Gracia believes rotation is fair for a squad that has exceeded expectation this season.

He said: "In this moment, we have 26 players available and all of them deserve to play. 

"All of them have competed really well. It’s good for us to compete like today because for the next games, there are eight games left and the FA Cup competition.

"It’s the best news for us to have 26 players ready to compete and training all of them, to help the team."