Watford vs Sunderland – Preview
Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores is expecting Sunday’s Barclays Premier League encounter with Sunderland to be an emotional one as he takes charge of the Hornets for the last time.
It was announced on Friday that the Spaniard would be leaving Vicarage Road after ensuring the club comfortably avoided relegation in their first season back in the top flight and reached the FA Cup semi-finals.
And Flores claimed that he would be departing satisfied with the job that he has done since succeeding Slavisa Jokanovic last June.
“I am excited for the last match at Vicarage Road,” he said. “We have a lot of reasons to be happy, we completed the objective and we have the opportunity to play in the stadium with our own fans, so it will be amazing.
“It will be really, really emotional and special.
“It’s a long season in England and it’s really, really good for a team who has just been promoted to get 44 points.
“They have finished in the position they deserve. My work is done.”
The outgoing manager is expected to name an unchanged squad for Sunday’s match, with Valon Behrami (rib) and Etienne Capoue (knee) again set to miss out.
Watford have won only one of their last five matches in all competitions, conceding 13 goals in the process, but will be looking to do the double over Sunderland having won 1-0 at the Stadium of Light back in December.
For the visitors, meanwhile, manager Sam Allardyce has admitted that he will look to blood several youngsters now that the club’s survival has been secured.
With Sunderland set to finish 17th regardless of the result at Vicarage Road, not even positional prize money is at stake, giving Allardye a free hand to experiment with his side.
“We’ll give some of the young ‘uns a go,” he said. “Some of the Under-21s have been training with us for quite a while, week in, week out.
“They seem to be capable and putting them into a game that effectively doesn’t mean too much, is helpful.
“This is a great opportunity to play some of the youngsters and hopefully they’ll stand up at Watford, which gives us some encouragement to include them in the first-team squad for the start of the season.
“If you don’t play the youngsters, you don’t know if they’re going to be good enough.”
George Honeyman, Thomas Robson and Rees Greenwood are among the youngsters set to be involved for the visitors who did not pick up any fresh injuries during their vital midweek win over Everton.
That triumph at the Stadium of Light extended Sunderland’s unbeaten run to five matches, but they have only tasted victory once in their last seven away league fixtures.
Watford (from): Gilmartin, Gomes, Pantilimon, Ake, Belkalem, Britos, Cathcart, Ekstrand, Hoban, Holebas, Nyom, Paredes, Prodl, Abdi, Amrabat, Anya, Guedioura, Jurado, Suarez, Watson, Berghuis, Deeney, Ighalo, Oulare.
Sunderland (from): Harper, Mannone, Pickford, Brown, Jones, Kaboul, Kirchhoff, Kone, Matthews, O’Shea, Van Aanholt, Yedlin, Buckley (at Birmingham until Feb 15), Cattermole, Khazri, Larsson, M’Vila, Rodwell, Borini, Defoe, Gooch, Lens, N’Doye, Toivonen, Watmore.
Sunderland time escape from drop to perfection >>
Referee: Kevin Friend Assistants: M Salisbury, A Fox Fourth Official: D Deadman
Sanchez Flores to leave Watford at end of season >>
– Watford’s win over Sunderland earlier this season ended a run of six league matches without a win over the Black Cats (D2 L4).
– Sunderland have won just one of their last seven Barclays Premier League away matches (W1 D4 L2).
– Only one team (West Ham United) have stopped Sunderland from scoring in their last 13 top-flight away trips.
– Sunderland have won one and lost 11 of their 14 final day fixtures in the competition (D2).