WATFORD ARE at Vicarage Road for the second time in five days this Saturday as they play host to Lee Clark’s Birmingham City.
Gianfranco Zola’s side will be looking to get back to winning ways after Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat by Ipswich Town.
Birmingham were also beaten in midweek, newly-promoted Sheffield Wednesday securing all three points in a 3-2 win at Hillsborough, despite a late show from Marlon King and Nikola Zigic.
The opening day of the season saw Clark’s side held 1-1 at home to by another promoted side in Charlton Athletic. Zigic struck in injury-time again, this time levelling the score after Leon Cort’s header.
It’s been a busy off-season for Clark who was appointed after Chris Hughton elected to leave the Blues after a season to take up the reins at Norwich City. Touted as one of the bright young things of British management, Clark served his coaching apprenticeship with Newcastle United and Norwich City before taking his first managerial appointment with Huddersfield Town.
Appointed in December 2008, Clark immediately pushed the Terriers forward kicking and screaming, securing a 9th-place finish. The next two seasons saw Town beaten in the Play-Off’s before he was eventually sacked with the Yorkshire club in February 2012 with the club still in the top-six.
From an outsider’s perspective, there appeared to be a great deal of supporter dissatisfaction with the lack of a Plan B as the Terriers struggled to a number of draws – similar to Aidy Boothroyd in 2007/08.
Despite the summer loss of former Hornets Ben Foster, who joined West Brom for £4m, and Jordon Mutch, who joined Cardiff City for £2.5m, Clark has been able to add six new faces of his own as well as promoting from within in one notable case.
Jack Butland, who made his Brum debut three days after his full England debut, is that notable case. Highly-rated after being selected for Roy Hodgson’s European Championship squad as well as Stuart Pearce’s Team GB Olympic Squad. Butland impressed during the Games and has been tipped for a big future, despite playing just 24 career appearances prior to this season, on-loan with Cheltenham Town.
Clark was quick to do his business this summer, bringing in former Newcastle United, Schalke 04 and Rangers attacker Peter Lovenkrands. A hugely-experienced Danish international, Lovenkrands was released at the end of last season by the Magpies, signing for the Blues on a free transfer.
The 32 year-old left-winger-cum-forward has won 22 full Danish caps, having previously represented the Danes at U19 and U21 level too.
During a six year association with Rangers, Lovenkrands notched 37 goals in 129 appearances for the Glasgow giants.
At the other end of the experience scale is former Manchester United youngster, Ravel Morrison. The 19 year-old midfielder made just one league appearance for West Ham United after signing from the Red Devils last January, and has since moved on loan to St. Andrews.
Rated as one of the hottest prospects to come out of United’s famed academy in recent years, Morrison blew his big chance with his off-field behaviour, finding himself on the wrong side of the law last year.
It will be down to Clark to get the best out of the Wythenshawe-born playmaker.
Birmingham will be without the services of long-serving right-back Stephen Carr, whilst Zigic could be pushing for a start after two goals in as many games.
Zola is still without Stephen McGinn, Fitz Hall and Alex Geijo.
John Eustace’s situation is unknown, the midfielder sorely missed due to a back injury against Ipswich.
It’s unclear however whether or not new loan signing Marco Cassetti will be fit to play any part. Steve Leo Beleck and Ikechi Anya both featured in thee Tractor Boys defeat and should make the 18 again.
Watford: Almunia; Hodson, Nosworthy, Taylor, Pudil; Murray, Hogg, Abdi; Yeates, Garner & Vydra.
Birmingham City: Butland; Spector, Caldwell, Davies, Murphy; Burke, Mullins, Ambrose, Elliott; Redmond; King.
Referee: Mr K Stroud.