Injuries to key players and the visit of a team who has only just come down from the Premier League - this weekend could prove to be our toughest test of the 2020-21 season so far. But the Royals boss was full of positivity, energy and enthusiasm...more than relishing the challenge that the Hornets will pose on Saturday.
"We are impressed with our guys. Not only with the mood, but with everything they’re putting in. All the effort and the commitment…day in, day out, ever since we started together," Veljko Paunović began.
"And it’s been another great week of training and that is going to helpful in order to have a great performance on Saturday.
"The team is not only gelling on the field, but off the field too. The identity and the excitement is growing.
"The confidence is also growing… all of these ingredients are very important so that we can keep performing well and improving. But we also believe that it will be a hard test for us on Saturday.
"We always say – you’ve got one day to enjoy the success but the next day you have to start working as though nothing has happened… start working towards the next game. That’s the attitude that we have had so far, and I love spirit that we have in the team."
This will be the last test for the Royals before a two-week international break and an opportunity to rest some bodies ahead of an unrelenting schedule after the interval.
"The season is long…we’ve had good circumstances so far but we are also facing challenging moments with a couple of injuries.
"Right now we have to be very grateful to the guys who have not participated too much, but every time they’ve had an opportunity, we didn’t even notice that a substitution had been made.
"This is something that we still want to see from our players. As we said from the beginning, everyone is important.
"After the international break, the schedule will become very busy. We will have to be strategic as we move through the season.
"Everyone plays a role and everyone will have the opportunity. You just have to be ready for the opportunity when it comes.
"I am excited, but I’m also cautious. I want everyone to be on the same page in terms of the commitment and the readiness to perform and to get through challenging situations."
On the touchline on Saturday, two Serbs do battle as Pauno welcomes Vladimir Ivić to the away team dugout.
"We know each other – he was a very good former teammate. He is a fantastic guy as a player and a teammate and had a great career. Now as a coach, he is doing a great job; he is a proven manager and he has done a great job in all the countries he has been in.
"So it’s another test – we know that this is one of the best teams in the league and that they’ll be contenders for the promotion spots.
"We respect everyone, but we focus on ourselves. When we get onto the field, we get ready to compete – no matter who is in front of us.
"It’s going to be a difficult challenge this weekend for our team – but we will focus on ourselves and be ready."