The Royals travel to Vicarage Road to face the Hornets in our third and final game of a jam-packed seven-day stretch, and ahead of our visit to Watford we spoke to another regional journalist who has been covering their team home and away, in order to get the inside scoop on Friday night's hosts.
The Watford Observers' Senior Sports Reporter, Ryan Gray has followed the Hornets the length and breadth of the country this season, and has offered his insight on Xisco Munoz's high-flying outfit, as the Royals look to spoil the party by completing a league double over Watford this weekend.
Ryan, thanks very much for speaking to us, how would you sum up Watford’s season so far?
It’s turned out okay in the end after a bit of a turbulent and uninspiring start. Vladimir Ivic was brought in as a disciplinarian at the beginning of the season, but it wasn’t really the right approach and the football was far too defensive.
Since Xisco Munoz has come in and changed the shape of the team, they’re looking much more positive and now have promotion in their own hands with only six games to go.
How has this compared to how you thought it might play out at the start of the season?
There was the expectation they would be contending for the top spots and it’s eventually more or less played out that way. They’ve adapted really well to the step down and are really coming into their own at the right time.
Since Xisco has come in, Watford have lost on just four occasions, how do you reflect on his time at the club so far?
He’s done a really good job of creating a sense of team spirit and togetherness that simply wasn’t there under Ivic. His inexperience had one or two wondering if he was the right man for the job after his arrival and he didn’t get off to a great start, but he’s really turned things around and is a genuinely very nice guy as well, which helps for us covering the club.
Are there things he has done that Vladimir Ivic perhaps didn’t?
He’s playing to the team’s strengths. Since moving Will Hughes into the centre of midfield and adopting a more attacking style, they look a completely different team.
The five at the back they were playing under Ivic did them few favours, whereas now they’ve got five or six players who look a genuine goal threat in each game and, when they click, it’s really great to watch.
Last time out the Hornets were held to a 1-1 draw against Middlesbrough, how did they look in that one?
It wasn’t their best game, neither was the match before that against Sheffield Wednesday, so they’ll be looking for a reaction against Reading certainly. Whether it’s a case of nerves getting to them or a bit of a hangover from the international break, I’m not sure, but I think they’ve got enough quality for them to rebound in the next match.
Watching from afar, what have you made of Reading this season in general?
They obviously got off to a flying start and then they just seemed to fall off a little around the end of October. I think the play-offs is about where they deserve to be given what I’ve seen of them. I’d maybe be a little disappointed if I was a Reading fan that they couldn’t rediscover that form they were producing at the beginning of the season.
Equally, what were your reflections on our last meeting? A 1-0 win for Reading back in October.
It was the game that showed Watford this season wasn’t going to be as easy as I think a few of them thought it might be.
That game has had a lasting effect as well, as Watford are still without midfielder Tom Dele-Bashiru, who damaged his anterior cruciate ligament during the first half. A lot had been expected of him this season and he was starting to impress, so it’s a shame that happened when it did.
Which Watford players should Reading fans be keeping an eye out for as your biggest assets on Friday evening?
Ismaila Sarr is the real danger man and he’s in great form at the moment playing out on the right. He’s still only 23 as well, so has a very bright future ahead of him.
Lastly, what do you think Watford need to do in their last six games to ensure a successful season?
I think as few as three wins could be enough to see them go up. Brentford and Swansea seem to be struggling with the pressure at the moment and it looks like Watford will get promoted if they can just keep doing what they have been in their last 12 games. As long as they concentrate on their own performances instead of what’s going on around them, they should be okay.
Ryan Gray is a Senior Sports Reporter for the Watford Observer.