High-flying Watford will remain without six first-team players for their trip to defending Premier League champions Chelsea this weekend.
The Hornets make the short journey to west London on Saturday (21 October) bursting with confidence having vaulted into the top four courtesy of a last-gasp and somewhat controversial 2-1 win over Arsenal.
While Watford sustained no fresh fitness blows during a victory secured by a highly-contentious Troy Deeney penalty and a dramatic 92nd-minute winner from Tom Cleverley, any hopes that their lingering injury problems would ease in time for another high-profile clash at Stamford Bridge have now been extinguished.
In addition to long-term knee injury victims Craig Cathcart, Tommie Hoban and Isaac Success, defenders Younes Kaboul and Sebastian Prodl (both hamstring) are still out and will not begin working with their teammates again until next week.
That will leave highly rated manager Marco Silva once again short of senior centre-backs.
Nathaniel Chalobah underwent surgery last month on a fractured kneecap sustained in training before the 2-1 win over Swansea City, and although performance director Gavin Benjafield was initially optimistic that he would be reintegrated back into the squad well before the New Year, it remains to be seen exactly when the former Chelsea midfielder will be in a position to return to action.
“It’s the same situation as last week,” Silva, who has urged Watford’s players to remain calm and keep their feet firmly on the ground despite such an impressive start to his maiden campaign at the helm, told reporters at a pre-match press conference held on Thursday afternoon.
“Cathcart, Chalobah and Isaac are long-term. Kaboul and Sebastian are still out of the match. We expect them to work with the team the next week. Maybe not full training, but certainly with the team. It’s too early to say with Chalobah.”
In stark contrast to buoyant Watford, dejected Chelsea enter Saturday’s game having suffered back-to-back domestic defeats to Manchester City and lowly Crystal Palace. The Blues then came perilously close to completely blowing a two-goal lead in their home Champions League fixture against AS Roma, only for Eden Hazard to rescue a late point in a pulsating 3-3 draw.
Chelsea are also dealing with something of an injury crisis at present, with midfielders Danny Drinkwater and N’Golo Kante recently joined on the sidelines by wing-back Victor Moses.
David Luiz was substituted with a calf issue against Roma, while Gary Cahill sustained a head knock. Conte, who has again reiterated the increasing strain on his thin squad, revealed after the match that Tiemoue Bakayoko was dealing with a pain in his groin.