WATFORD ARE back on the road this Saturday as they head to Elland Road to face Leeds United whose poor run of form – one win in eight – sees them level on points with Gianfranco Zola`s side.
It had been a strong start to the season for Neil Warnock`s men, upsetting the applecart somewhat by losing just three of their first 13 fixtures, a run which saw them hover in seventh for several weeks.
Now though, the realities of a tough division and a small squad have come back to haunt United who are only above the Hornets on goal difference.
Brighter times could be ahead though for the Whites, with investment group GFH Capital believed to be close to completion on a takeover of the club worth £44m. If nothing else, the buyout would see the ever-popular Ken Bates depart the club.
It was a typically busy summer in the transfer market for Warnock, signing no fewer than 11 players, with a further two arriving on loan at the club since the transfer window shut. Those additions were however offset against the losses of 12 senior players who were released, sold or loaned out.
Goalkeeper Paddy Kenny is a man that Warnock takes with him wherever he goes. Indeed, the 34 year has now been signed by Warnock no fewer than four times – taking him to Bury from Halifax, the Sheffield United from Bury, to QPR from Sheffield United and to Leeds from QPR.
However, the Halifax-born Republic of Ireland international is a model of consistency and has been an ever-present in the league so far for Leeds this term, keeping two clean sheets behind a somewhat porous defence.
Another man Warnock has been re-united with, is former Sheffield United player Michael Tonge.
The 29 year-old spent seven years at Bramall Lane, clocking up 262 league appearances for the Blades before an ill-advised move to Stoke City. Since his move to the Britannia, the winger-cum-attacking midfielder has made just 12 league appearances for Tony Pulis.
Deadly at set-plays, Tonge chipped in with 21 league goals during his at Sheffield United. Since then, the Manchester-born playmaker has taken in five loan spells (including this), with Preston North End (twice), Barnsley and Derby County.
Tonge has bagged twice in seven games since arriving at Elland Road and will remain on-loan at the club until the end of 2012.
El-Hadji Diouf certainly arrived at Leeds having had a history with Neil Warnock, but it was emphatically not the same kind that Tonge and Kenny enjoyed.
Labelled ‘a sewer rat` by Warnock during his time at Queens Park Rangers, Diouf stood over the stricken Jamie Mackie (suffering from a broken leg) telling his to get up. It was therefore something of a surprise that Warnock could bring himself to work with the 31 year-old Senegalese international who has fallen out with a number of managers during his long career.
Diouf spent last term with Doncaster Rovers as their ‘experiment` under Willie McKay failed miserably. The Dakar-born winger-cum-striker had previously been on the books at Sochaux, Rennes, Lens, Liverpool, Bolton Wanderers, Sunderland, Blackburn Rovers and Rangers (on-loan).
Warnock will be without striker Ross McCormack, whilst Tom Lees picked up an eye injury last week and will miss the clash too. Lee Peltier and Michael Tonge are likely to play through necessity whilst carrying knocks.
Watford are without John Eustace (back), Neuton (ankle), Daniel Pudil (suspension) and could be without Nyron Nosworthy and Fitz Hall once more, meaning Joel Ekstrand will continue at centre-half.
Watford: Almunia (c); Doyley, Ekstrand, Hoban; Cassetti, Chalobah, Hogg, Abdi, Fanchone; Deeney & Forestieri.
Leeds United: Kenny; Byram, Peltier (c), Pearce, Drury; White, Austin, Brown, Tonge; Becchio & Diouf.
Referee: Mr T Kettle.