Club captain Tom Cleverley says the gap between the Premier League and Championship is so large nowadays that he understands why the three relegated teams are the favourites to go back up.

Speaking ahead of Watford’s season opener, against Sheffield United tomorrow night (8pm), Cleverley said he and his teammates will have to deal with expectations placed upon them.

“I’m in a position where I can comment on the gap between the Premier League and the Championship, and it’s massive now,” he said.

“Any team coming down will be strong and have a big squad more able to deal with the demands of a longer season.

“So we will be one of the favourites but we have to play like we are from day one. Any expectation placed upon us we have to deal with.”

Meeting another promotion contender in Sheffield United is certainly far from the easiest first fixture the Hornets could have been handed.

“It’ll be a big test,” admitted Cleverley. “It helps massively when squads have been together for long periods, and the Sheffield United squad has. They’ve played the same system for years and while we could have been given easier first games, I know it’s a challenge we’ll be ready for.”

The Blades were beaten in last season’s play-off semi-finals, and often sides who get that close to promotion suffer a hangover at the start of the next season.

“I’ve never been in a squad that has just missed out on promotion, but I can imagine it’s hard to pick yourself up,” said Cleverley.

“It means you have a shorter summer, and even when you come back you’re probably still hurting a bit from losing in the play-offs.”

Not only do the Hornets face a promotion rival, the game is also live on Sky.

“We’re probably going to get a bit of TV coverage early on because we’re one of the relegated clubs but that’s part and parcel of the challenge,” said Cleverley.