Quique Sanchez Flores is wary of facing an Arsenal team determined to gain revenge for Watford’s FA Cup victory at Emirates Stadium when they meet in the Premier League on Saturday.
The visitors recorded a famous 2-1 victory in the cup three weeks ago to end the Gunners’ hopes of winning the tournament for a third consecutive year and book their place in a Wembley semi-final against Crystal Palace.
Now the teams clash at the Emirates again with Arsenal third in the table – 11 points behind leaders Leicester City with a game in hand – and knowing a repeat of that result would surely end their faint title hopes.
“We know now that we can win at this stadium because we did it a few weeks ago, but we should know also that for sure Arsenal will want revenge – they are not happy to have lost a few weeks ago,” Flores told Watford’s official website.
“We are going to find a very difficult team because they will want to win. We need to play with the idea to recuperate good feelings and to try to do a good match.
“Of course we know that it will be tough, because of the team, because of the players. It is not easy but we’ll play with the idea to be competitive and we’ll try to win.
“We will wait until the last moment [to pick the team]. We have been continuing to train with 10 players here [during the international break] and we have transmitted the idea of the match, but for the players returning this is the beginning.
“Thursday is the first day we are going to check how the international players are and on Friday we will prepare more for the match and explain things to the players.”
Watford come into the game in poor Premier League form, with just two victories in 2016. Only Palace have earned fewer than their eight points in the calendar year – a run that has seen them sink to 14th in the table.
Flores will check on the fitness of Joel Ekstrand (hamstring), Valon Behrami and Sebatian Prodl (both illness), but may have a clean bill of health for the encounter.
Wenger, meanwhile, does not expect to have goalkeeper Petr Cech (calf) back, while Santi Cazorla (Achilles), Mathieu Flamini (hamstring), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) and Aaron Ramsey (thigh) are all still out.
Long-term absentees Jack Wilshere (calf) and Tomas Rosicky (thigh) are both back in training as they close in on returns, with the manager hoping a number of his key stars can be fit to play West Ham on April 9.
“Cech is going back to normal training,” said Wenger. “It’s too early to say if he will be available for the weekend. He might be a bit short to be competitive.
“Ramsey will not be available for this weekend, but hopefully next weekend. Flamini is short but could be available next weekend.
“Wilshere and Rosicky are back in full training – basically they are all progressing well. We have not yet decided [whether Wilshere will be back on the pitch for the Under-21s].
“It is his first week back in full training and we will see how he responds to that, but the first signs are quite good. We will assess our options next week.”
Key Opta stats:
– Arsenal had won the previous six meetings with Watford before a 1-2 defeat last month in the FA Cup quarter final.
– The Hornets scored with their only two shots on target in that 2-1 victory at the Emirates Stadium.
– Watford and Arsenal have met 17 times in the league with both sides winning eight times, with one draw.
– Arsenal have scored just six goals in their last eight home games (all comps), averaging 25 shots for each goal scored. They have averaged nine shots faced for each goal conceded.
– Arsenal have led at half time in none of their last 10 matches in all competitions at the Emirates Stadium.
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