Imperative or insignificant?
There’s lots of arguments to be made about the standing of the Capital One Cup in terms of priority to one’s season.
It has no bearing on one’s league points – which is essentially your bread and butter – and does winning it really elevate your status that much? To the elite clubs, it’s essentially meaningless to the other prizes and riches on offer, and to the likes of Swansea, it’s all well and good initially, but let’s see how much they appreciate winning the cup when the Europa League fixtures are in full swing (and once that euphoria of that win in Valencia has dried up) and the injuries and suspensions pile up.
You could say they’ve got every chance of “doing a Newcastle” and sliding down the table at an alarming rate.
But on the flip side, who cares? For Swansea, it’s a moment they’ll never, ever forget, and it led to that frankly stunning victory in Spain in their first European sojourn in over two decades.
For the big clubs, it’s a chance for the stars of tomorrow to get a chance to shine in a very competitive senior environment. A chance for managers to rotate their squads, try new things and take a break from the pressures of league football.
For Norwich and Chris Hughton in particular, the latter makes this vitally important.
After the tremendous balls-up that was Hull away, City were on Capital One Cup duty in the second round as Bury made the trip to Norfolk. In what was a surprisingly entertaining tie, City emerged victorious by a 6-3 margin.
What followed was a renewed vigour and desire to get forward (even if it was only a League 2 side) which directly resulted in victory just a few days later in the league over Southampton.
Ok, so that game didn’t match the previous home win in terms of goals, but what it did do was to lift the side a bit.
This tie against Watford will be much tougher, but it might just give the desired effect. A good performance and progression in the cup here, and come the weekend they might just fancy it against Stoke that teeny, tiny little bit more.
Maybe that’s wishful thinking. But even so, hopefully Gary Hooper will get his first start and a chance to get back to full match-fitness following his injury spell. He was one of the few players from the Villa fixture who could actually hold his head up high and say he performed to a reasonable standard.
Otherwise, the likes of Mark Bunn will get a chance to get some real exercise after warming the bench again, while hopefully the likes of Martin Olsson will get another chance to impress too.
You never know, we might even get a David Fox sighting.
Sebastien Bassong has a hamstring problem, and Ricky Van Wolfswinkel has a toe injury. Josh Murphy is set to be included in the squad, and the youngster will be keen to build on his success in the all-conquering youth team from last season. Gary Hooper is expected to make his first competitive start.
Josh McEachran completed a loan move from Chelsea on Friday, so he might feature here. Almen Abdi is a doubt for the Hornets thanks to a foot injury.
Wins over Bury and Southampton have made things slightly aggrieving for Chris Hughton, but defeat here and the number of fans calling for his dismissal might grow a tad.
A good start for Watford in the Championship this season, despite coming off of the back of a disappointing play-off final defeat to Crystal Palace last summer. They’re coming into this match off the back of just one defeat in the league so far this term, and beat Bournemouth 2-0 in the 2nd round to earn this tie against Premier League opposition.
Last time we met.
City were just a few games away from getting promoted to the top flight again when they last made the trip to Vicarage Road.
Sam Vokes, a loanee from Wolves who was sadly recalled back to the West Midlands after just a couple of appearances, put City in front only for Danny Graham and Don Cowie to turn the game on his head.
Simeon Jackson, as he did so often in his Norwich career, popped up with an important goal to level things, and it finished 2-2 in the process.
City only have one win in their last five competitive meetings with Watford. Oh dear!
What’s in store this time round?
Watford at home will be a tricky test, and one that fans of giant-killings will be keeping a close eye on.
But in truth, if everything clicks as it should, this is a winnable game for us. If we can play without fear and without the pressure that comes with playing in the Premier League, that might allow the team to express themselves more than usual.
To get to the last 16 of this competition wouldn’t do us any harm whatsoever. It’s more cash in the club’s coffers and a chance to everyone in the squad to get a bit of game time.
More than anything though, lets just hope for better than Saturday.