WATFORD will look to put further distance between themselves and seventh-placed Burnley this weekend as they take on struggling Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.
Gianfranco Zola`s side sit four points ahead of the Clarets in sixth and a mere four points behind Forest`s great east Midlands` rivals Leicester City – who lie second.
It`s been a turbulent few weeks for new Forest boss Alex McLeish after taking up the reigns following the sacking of the popular Sean O`Driscoll on Boxing Day.
The former Bournemouth, Doncaster Rovers and Crawley Town boss appeared to be doing a fine job in the eyes of most neutrals, but clearly not in the eye of Kuwaiti owner, Fawaz Al-Hasawi.
Sacked mere hours after s 4-2 win over Leeds United, O`Driscoll has, unsurprisingly, quickly found employment against at Bristol City after turning down the advances of Barnsley.
In comes former Hibernian, Rangers, Scotland, Birmingham City and Aston Villa boss McLeish – sacked by Villans` owner Randy Lerner the day after the 2011/12 Premier League season finished.
A dismal season with Villa was enough to see McLeish removed from his post, just 12 months after jumping ship from their Midlands` rivals after taking the Blues into the Championship via a memorable Carling Cup victory over Arsenal.
Negative football is the order of the day under McLeish, and with just one win to his name as Forest boss – that a 1-0 victory over strugglers Peterborough United – ‘Big ‘Eck` will have difficulty winning the support of fans used to the pass-and-move style of O`Driscoll.
On paper the Tricky Trees have a strong side, with a potent front pairing of Simon Cox and Billy Sharp that should worry most sides in the division.
Both recruited during the summer transfer window by O`Driscoll, Cox arrived in a £2m deal from West Bromwich Albion, whilst Sharp arrived on-loan from Southampton, just one transfer window after signing for the Saints from O`Driscoll`s Doncaster.
Both nippy and with an eye for goal, the two have made their names in the Football League with enviable strike records in League One and the Championship.
In midfield, Irish international Andy Reid finally looks to have a found a settled home and is reaping the benefits of playing centrally.
A cultured left foot and vision which puts him ahead of many of his peers, the former Forest, Tottenham Hotspur, Sunderland and Blackpool playmaker has been injured recently and has proved a big loss during his absence.
At the back there is a wealth of experience with former Sunderland and Stoke City centre-back Danny Collins partnered by former Coventry and Norwich City defender Elliott Ward – brother of former ‘Orn, Darren.
Gonzalo Jara Reyes has been one of McLeish`s few recruits, drafted in on-loan from West Brom, whilst Greg Halford, Sam Hutchinson and Dan Harding make up the other full-back options.
Between the sticks Karl Darlow has made just two appearances for the Forest first-team but has been installed as McLeish`s number one after the Scot allowed the reliable Lee Camp to join Norwich City on a free transfer.
Joining Reid amongst the absentees for the hosts is Algerian midfielder, Adlene Guediora, who is currently on African Cup of Nations` duty in South Africa.
Hutchinson (knee), Marcus Tudgay (collbarbone), Daniel Ayala (hamstring) and Reid (groin) are all sidelined.
Former Watford striker Darius Henderson joined Forest on Thursday and could make his Red’s debut against the ‘Orns.
Zola is without Tommie Hoban (achilles) once again after Fitz Hall returned to the bench against Huddersfield following injury.
Nottingham Forest: Darlow; Jara Reyes, Ward, Collins (c), Halford; Lansbury, Gillett, Cohen, Majewski; Cox & Sharp.
Watford: Almunia (c); Doyley, Nosworthy, Ekstrand; Cassetti, Chalobah, Battocchio, Abdi, Forsyth; Vydra & Deeney.
Referee: Mr A Haines.