Stoke boss Mark Hughes heaps praise on Hornets
Published 18/03/2016 | 19:01
Stoke boss Mark Hughes is sure Watford would be regarded as the story of the season if it were not for Leicester.
While the Foxes, relegation battlers last term, have had a remarkable campaign which could see them crowned as Barclays Premier League champions, the Hornets have also impressed.
On their return to the top-flight they have been around the middle of the table for much of the season, well clear of the fight to beat the drop.
Add to that the fact they secured a place in the FA Cup semi-finals with a shock 2-1 win at Arsenal last weekend.
They host Stoke in the league on Saturday, and Hughes said ahead of the game: "Let's hope they have been celebrating getting to a Wembley semi-final!
"I thought they played really well and deserved to go through.
"They have had a great season. The story of the season is Leicester, but if that hadn't been the case, then Watford and the season they have had, given they were only promoted last year, would very much have been in people's minds in terms of the story of the season.
"So that's credit to them. They kept a few of those who got them up, but also made a lot of changes.
"That sometimes can go awry, but they've been able to cope with it and have looked very comfortable in this league for a long time."
Key to Watford's success have been front pair Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney, and Hughes added: "We have a game plan that incorporates things we need to do well to stop the better players in the opposition having an influence, and that will be the case against Watford.
"The two guys up top have had a big influence on what they've done.
"Ighalo has scored 14 league goals, and Deeney hasn't scored as many but has created a lot.
"They are a good pairing, who work well off each other really well, and certainly they are something we'll talk about before the game."
Stoke will be without captain Ryan Shawcross and winger Xherdan Shaqiri for Saturday's contest.
Shawcross suffered the latest in a series of back problems when the defender picked up a strain towards the end of last weekend's 2-1 loss to Southampton, a match in which Shaqiri had to come off early due to a thigh issue.
A late decision will be made on Erik Pieters, who has been nursing a calf complaint, but fellow full-back Phil Bardsley, out recently with a similar problem, should be able to return.
The chance of midfielder Charlie Adam making his first-team comeback is unclear, with an under-21s run-out having left him with some groin soreness.