Quick links



Leeds must watch out for this undervalued Watford star to achieve victory

There is one Watford player who Leeds must keep an eye on this weekend.

It is well known that Watford are one of the most attacking teams in the Championship and, despite some weaknesses, they can match any team on their day.

An inability to properly defend has cost them a place higher in the league table, although they could be sitting in the play-off places come the end of the campaign. It is this inability to defend that has made the Hornets head coach play to the strengths of the team - which means all out attack.

Troy Deeney, Odion Ighalo and Matej Vydra have become one of the most feared attacking forces in the Football League, and Fernando Forestieri waits on the substitute bench possessing a wealth of talent. Deeney, Ighalo and Vydra have an incredible 38 goals between them, with Nigerian forward Ighalo on 17 for the season, despite only playing 26 games.

Any team would fear a stike force of this strength and, despite Neil Redfearn bringing a new defensive solidity to Elland Road - aided by January acquisition Sol Bamba - there is an extremely high chance of Watford matching the four-goal haul they recorded at home to the Whites earlier in the campaign when they meet again on Saturday.

The defensive lines will be forced to focus on the likely first-choice pairing of Deeney and Ighalo, and this will allow the real star of the Watford side to take control of the game and show his true quality in the Championship.

Almen Abdi is, despite being adored at Vicarage Road, something of an unknown in the Championship, despite the incredible impact he has had since joining the club from Udinese. An attacking midfielder, the 28-year-old is often overlooked by fans of other teams due to his inconspicuous style of play, but, when on form, he is undoubtedly far too good for the second tier.

Depending on which formation Watford set up in, Abdi will either play as a number 10 or slightly deeper. In a 3-5-2, he is the most forward of the three central midfielders, whereas in the 4-4-2 - which is the less likely of the two systems to be utilised - he will start as the top of the diamond midfield. A roaming playmaker that possesses incredible ball control and vision, his tally of just two assists this campaign is not a true reflection on his skill set.

Suffering from a long-term injury at the opening of the season, it is only recently that Abdi has returned to full match fitness - and it shows. He is commonly the player who starts the move which results in a goal, meaning his statistical outcome is far lower than his visible contribution, although he has an adept strike on him, scoring seven times this season - including two exceptional long-range curlers against Fulham and Bolton.

Playing as the most attacking midfielder, it will most probably be up to Luke Murphy and Lewis Cook to control Abdi, with the English duo the two holding midfielders in Redfearn’s system. Their main focus to disrupt Abdi’s play must be on pressuring him at every opportunity, as the Swiss international struggles against high intensity, physical play.

To achieve victory against Watford, one must stop their goalscoring forwards from getting into the game as, if presented with a chance, it will usually be taken. If Abdi is removed from the game, his influence will wane and the gap between the forward line and midfield will increase. Murphy and Cook will be of vital importance for the Whites on Saturday afternoon and, if not up to scratch, Watford could once again run riot at Elland Road.

FIFA World Cup 2018FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia - click here for all of our coverage...

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch