Bolton Wanderers Preview (H) - February 2
WATFORD will look to return to winning ways at the Vic` this Saturday after the disappointment of defeat in midweek; continuing their Play-Off challenge by hosting Bolton Wanderers.
For Dougie Freedman and Bolton, it`s a wildly different tale. Pre-season expectations of promotion seem to have all but disappeared, with a season of re-building ahead of a promotion push next term on the agenda.
The highly-rated young Scot left high-fliers Crystal Palace to take over the hotseat at the Reebok Stadium and progress has been slow if not steady under the former goal-poacher.
Top of Freedman`s agenda is reducing the age and size of his playing staff with 33 year-old Bulgarian winger Martin Petrov departing for Espanyol on a free transfer.
Former Barnsley hotshot Craig Davies arriving up front to add further options whilst West Bromwich Albion defender Craig Dawson and Banik Ostrava midfielder Jan Gregus have both signed on-loan.
In spite of that mandate, Freedman has leant on the experience of former Southampton, Blackburn Rovers and Chesterfield striker Kevin Davies.
At the grand old age of 35, Davies is one of the elder statesman in the Wanderers squad but a crucial figure nonetheless. Weighing in with six goals this season, the one-time England international still leads the line reliably, though not as frequently as years gone by.
Forgotten-man and ex-Hornet Marvin Sordell appears to be coming back into the picture in recent times too - bagging a brace against Premier League Sunderland to help the Trotters dispatch with Martin O`Neill`s side in an F.A Cup 3rd round replay.
A popular figure during his one-and-a-half season`s in the first-team at Vicarage Road, Sordell will make his first return to WD18 following his defection to the Lancashire outfit in a protracted £3.5m deal just over 12 months ago.
It`s been a far from ideal first year at the Reebok, with Freedman`s predecessor Owen Coyle only ever utilizing the nippy England U21 and Team GB forward following relegation to the second-tier.
Freedman had used the former Fulham youth teamer even more sparingly until recently, but after revealing Sordell was 'addicted` to social networking sites Facebook and Twitter, there appears to have been something of a reprieve for the 21 year-old.
Another former 'Orn plying his trade with the Wanderers these days is Chris Eagles.
The Hemel Hempstead-born winger followed his former Burnley boss Coyle to the Reebok in 2011 in a £4m swoop which saw right-back Tye Mears follow.
A creative spark down the right-hand side, Eagles has quickly established himself as a key figure at the club and leads the club`s scoring charts with seven goals this term.
As part of the side which helped Aidy Boothroyd`s squad to promotion at the Millennium Stadium in 2006 during his second Vicarage Road loan spell, the former Manchester United trainee will be fondly remembered here.
Zola has just one injury concern ahead of this one with Tommie Hoban (achilles) out.
The Italian could well bring Marco Cassetti, Cristian Battocchio, Nathaniel Chalobah, Matej Vydra and Troy Deeney back into the side.
Bolton could hand a debut to new loan signing Dawson whilst Sordell could well be preferred up front to Kevin Davies following his goal against Everton in the F.A Cup.
Watford:Almunia (c); Nosworthy, Hall, Ekstrand; Cassetti, Chalobah, Battocchio, Abdi, Pudil; Vydra & Deeney.
Bolton Wanderers: Bogdan; Mears, Ream, Dawson, Alonson; Eagles, Andrews, Spearing, Pratley, Lee; Sordell.