Watford v Aston Villa: Flores facing uncertain future
Quique Sanchez Flores hinted he could become a victim of his own success ahead of Watford's Premier League clash with Aston Villa.
Having taken over for the 2015-16 season, Flores got off to a positive start, winning eight of his first 17 league matches in the Vicarage Road hot seat.
However, Watford have won just three of the subsequent 18 and, despite a run to the FA Cup semi-finals, Flores' job appears uncertain - the Spaniard revealed a break clause in his contract at a news conference on Thursday.
Flores is defiant, though, and says expectations may have climbed too high after Watford's early-season form, insisting the main objective of securing Premier League survival has been delivered.
"I'm not going to justify our season – I have the impression the Watford fans and players have enjoyed it," he said. "What I understand, as a human being, is that when you reach objectives, you always want more. Sometimes that is possible, sometimes it is not.
"The players who play are happy, the players who are not playing are not happy – but this is normal in football.
"But I am completely happy as I know how important this year was for the future of Watford. When I came here the objective was very clear – to establish the club in the Premier League.
"We have taken the first step, but it is the most difficult step. We had problems last year to bring in good professional players from another level, but now we have taken that first step in the future of the club.
"I have worked hard for a long time for the opportunity to coach a team in the Premier League. It was one of my dreams."
It has been a long, tough season for already-relegated Villa, whose club captain Gabriel Agbonlahor stood down on Thursday following widespread condemnation of his conduct in recent weeks.
But Stiliyan Petrov provided the club with some good news this week, returning to training with the long-term aim of a first-team comeback following his battle with leukaemia.
"It's lovely to hear. It's absolutely marvellous," said manager Eric Black. "I worked with Stan for two years at Celtic when I was a coach there.
"It certainly would be a dream come true. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to see Stiliyan pulling on an Aston Villa shirt again.
"I know how passionate he is about football and all about his tremendous work ethic.
"I haven't seen him in training but if there's a willingness and desire to do it then Stan has that in abundance. If he can possibly do it, he will do it."
Watford are not thought to have any fresh injury concerns, while Villa could welcome back Ciaran Clark following an ankle injury, but remain without Kieron Richardson (calf).
Key Opta stats:
- Watford will be looking to secure two league wins in a single season against Aston Villa for the first time since 1969-70.
- Aston Villa have kept a clean sheet in four of their last five league games against Watford, but shipped three goals in their Premier League meeting earlier this season at Villa Park (2-3).
- The Hornets have lost just one of their previous eight league meetings against Aston Villa at Vicarage Road (winning four, drawing three); this coming in August 1999.
- After Odion Ighalo (14) and Troy Deeney (9), ‘own goals’ is Watford’s third top goalscorer in the Premier League this season (3). One of those OG’s was Alan Hutton’s in the reverse fixture.
- Heurelho Gomes (11 clean sheets) needs one more clean sheet this season in the Premier League to equal his best ever tally in the English top-flight (12 for Spurs in both 2008-09 and 2009-10).