GIANFRANCO ZOLA will begin his first official match in charge of Watford tomorrow afternoon when the Hornets play hosts to Wycombe Wanderers in the first round of the newly named Capital One Cup. With the Olympics meaning the opening weekend of the league season has been pushed back a week, the cup will this year act as the season opener. To that end, Zola will be keen to leave a good impression on the Hornets fans to step up fitness and performance after a promising pre season.
There are fitness concerns for many of Watford`s foreign loan signings in one form or another. Almen Abdi is recovering from a slight injury after playing in all of Watford`s opening three pre seasons games but is expected to have a good chance of playing. Meanwhile Ikechi Anya, Steve Leo Beleck and Fitz Hall are all very doubtful having joined later in pre season and are yet to catch up with fitness. Daniel Pudil who started against Tottenham but went off after just seven minutes with cramp is 50/50. Stephen McGinn is also unlikely to feature as he is still building up his fitness after long term injury.
With the cup being the opening match of this season, and the fact it could be seen as the last chance to get players physically up to speed ahead of the big league kick off next weekend, Zola may well field a very strong side close to the one that may take the field at Crystal Palace next Saturday. The league cup has been kind to Watford at time in previous seasons with the Hornets reaching the Semi-Final stage in 2005 and also had a good run in 2008 reaching the quarter finals.
Near neighbours Wycombe Wanderes will arrive at Vicarage Road tomorrow adjusting to a new division having been relegated from League One on the final day of last term. Wycombe have stuck with manager Garry Waddock through the summer as he looks to rebuild the squad for another promotion this season. Wycombe certainly have a connection to Watford with some of their players. Matt Whichelow spent a period on loan with the Chairboys last season and on their books at the moment are Joel Grant, Marvin McCoy and Matthew Spring who joined them from Leyton Orient this summer.
Spring joins a fair few other experienced players in the Wycombe dressing room with likes of Leon Johnson, Gareth Ainsworth, Gary Doherty and Dennis Oli all plying their trade at Wycombe. They add experience to the younger heads in the dressing such as exciting left back Grant Basey who started his career at Charlton and helped Peterborough to promotion to the Championship in 2011.
Wycombe have had a mixed pre season with wins against Staines Town and Cambridge Utd and defeats to Premier League Fulham and Queen`s Park Rangers. What will disappoint Gary Waddock was their final pre season game which ended in a 4-1 defeat at home by Brentford a performance Waddock described as “not good enough”. In Wycombe`s team news Dennis Oli is doubtful to play but will be assessed ahead of the match. Dave Winfield is continuing to step up his fitness after injury and Matt McClure is out with a knee injury.
Saturday`s referee will be Mr C. Berry. Mr Berry produced 5 red cards in his 25 matches last season and has never refereed Watford before!
Likely line-up: Almunia; Hodson, Nosworthy, Taylor, Dickinson; Eustace (c), Abdi, Hogg; Yeates, Garner & Murray.
Vital Prediction: 2-0 to Watford