Reading return to league action on Saturday, looking to bounce back after last weekend’s FA Cup exit to Manchester United - not to mention a 4-0 battering at Stoke City seven days earlier. Standing in our way are Watford, who have serious play-off hopes but seem to have picked up our injury curse from last season.
Ahead of the Hornets’ trip to Reading, we spoke to Watford podcast The Voices of the Vic. You can find them on Twitter @VoicesOfTheVic.
How’s the season gone for you since we met in November?
In true Watford fashion this season it’s been very up and down and inconsistent. We can’t seem to grasp the whole “stringing a run of results together” business. One week it looks like things are progressing ever so slightly and then the next it looks like it’s the first time they’ve ever played football with each other. We really need to dig deep if we want to make the play-offs and go into it in good form.
How’s Slaven Bilic getting on in the dugout?
Again, much like the above answer it’s hard to judge because of the inconsistency and the injuries, although to still be where we are in the table having had the amount of injuries we’ve had is quite simply astonishing, so fair play to Slaven for at least pulling some results out the bag. Norwich away springs to mind: although they were in a slump themselves back then, the team he picked was alarming and that’s due to the injuries. It was one of those games that if I’d taken my boots I might’ve got on for the last 10!
What are the main strengths of this Watford side?
Our attack, when people are fit, is enough to scare any Championship defence. Joao Pedro is the best player in this league without a shadow of a doubt and my word does he show it. Even though there are inconsistencies, Ismailia Sarr - when he can be bothered - is a cut above the rest in this league too. Keinan Davis is a powerhouse although not the best finisher of a football but the ball just sticks to him.
Definitely defence. Some of the goals we’ve conceded this season are straight out of the Sunday park football handbook, yet last time we were in the Championship we set the record for the best home defence in the division and it was largely with the same defence we have now.
If you want an example, go look at Akpom’s goal against us last week and also go and look at Shane Ferguson’s goal against us the week before… case closed.
Some would argue that our midfield is weak at the moment too, again because of the injuries we’re having to deal with. You boys will know all about the delights of Leandro Bacuna so I don’t think I need to say much else when we’ve been having to fit him into the team..
How will the rest of the season play out for you?
I feel a bit like a broken record here talking about our injuries but again, once we get the likes of Pedro, Louza, Sema etc back then my word we’re going to have one hell of a squad. Top two is out of reach (despite me saying on our pod a couple of weeks ago that it was still achievable!) so we need to string a run together and really push for some good form heading into the latter stages of this season and hope that momentum can carry us through into the play-offs as we all know it’s a lottery, but you guys know a thing or two about going up after making a late charge up the table.
How do you see the game going on Saturday and what will the score be?
I spoke to a Reading podcast on Wednesday and he was telling me about how he’d expect you to set up. Ultimately we’re looking at the sixth-best home record in the division against the seventh-best away record so I’m expecting it to be tight. I feel the midfield “battle” could be where it’s won and lost on Saturday. I said this also to the aforementioned podcast that we really need to start picking up points against teams in the bottom half - that’s one thing we’ve struggled with this season.
I’m going for a 2-1 Watford win: won’t be a classic game that many look back on in years to come. Araujo to open his account for the ‘Orns and Britt Assombalonga to come off the bench to win it.