Quique Sanchez Flores has warned high-flying Manchester City that his Watford side are a different proposition to the team they beat earlier this season.
City defeated Watford 2-0 in August to set a new club record for consecutive wins with Raheem Sterling and Fernandinho on the scoresheet.
However, Watford have established themselves well in their first season back in the Premier League and they sit ninth with 29 points at the halfway stage of the campaign.
Watford boss Flores is well aware of the quality in City’s ranks, but the Spaniard insists his side do not fear any opposition.
“The difference [from the last time they played City] is that we have grown a lot in the last four months,” he told Watford’s official website ahead of Saturday’s contest at Vicarage Road.
“The first time we played against Manchester City they were amazing, they hadn’t conceded any goals, they were really positive.
“They have continued being an amazing team, but we have changed a little bit our mentality.”
Watford suffered an agonising last-minute defeat to Tottenham last time out, which followed a hard-fought 2-2 draw at Chelsea, and Flores believes his side have proven they can mix it with the best.
He added at his pre-match news conference: “We are now established [in the league] and have the respect of the opponents.
“We now want more, we are not used to losing, when we lose against Tottenham in the last minute and draw with Chelsea in a tough match, we want more, we are not happy with those situations, it is very good.”
City have struggled on the road this season and have not won away in the league since a 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace in September.
Despite their winless away run, Manuel Pellegrini’s men are just three points off leaders Arsenal following Tuesday’s goalless draw at Leicester City.
And Pellegrini believes City, who are seeking a third title in five seasons, are well placed heading into 2016.
“We are in a good position. Always the best position is to be top of the table, but I think that this is a special season in the Premier League,” he said.
“Now we are just three points behind the leaders. I hope we are going to compete with a very good second part of the season.”
Vincent Kompany (calf) and Samir Nasri (hamstring) are City’s only absentees, with Fernando (hamstring) and Fabian Delph (knee) returning to bolster Pellegrini’s midfield options.
Nathan Ake is to start a three-match ban for Watford, while Joel Ekstrand (knee) remains sidelined.
Key Opta stats:
– Watford and Manchester City have met 13 times in the league with both sides racking up five victories.
– Manchester City are unbeaten against the Hornets in the last eight encounters in all competitions (W6 D2).
– Odion Ighalo became the first Watford player to score in six successive top-flight league games when he netted in their last match versus Spurs.
– If he were to score in this game, Ighalo would equal the all-time club record of scoring in seven successive games, held by Frank McPherson in 1928/29.
– Ighalo ended 2015 as the top scoring player in the calendar year within the top four tiers of English football (30 goals).
– Pablo Zabaleta could make his 200th Premier League appearance in this match and would become the third Argentinian to reach this landmark after Carlos Tevez and Fabricio Coloccini.
– Sergio Aguero has only failed to score against five of the 28 different Premier League teams that he has faced in the competition – Watford (one appearance) are one of these sides.
– Manchester City are winless in their last six Premier League away games (W0 D3 L3) – their longest run without an away win since April 2011 (also six games).
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