Watford head coach Nigel Pearson is wary of Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish ahead of Saturday’s meeting between the two relegation-threatened sides.
The playmaker helped Dean Smith’s men to a vital 1-0 victory over Norwich on Boxing Day and has impressed since promotion to the Premier League.
Grealish has scored seven times for Villa this season and if Watford are to make it three games without a defeat, they will have to find a way of stopping the 24-year-old.
“Jack is a player who has been there a while and I would imagine people think he is quite talismanic for them,” Pearson said.
“He is a player we have to be aware of for sure, but the preparation for this game is to make sure we are OK in the sense of physically and getting the recovery right.
“I am sure they will look at it from a similar point of view and they will know we have players who they need to be aware of and respect.
“But I am sure their emphasis will be on how they approach the game and there is always a lot at stake.”
Pearson is hopeful Watford can make the most of home advantage when they host third-from-bottom Villa.
The Hornets moved off the basement with a 1-1 draw at Sheffield United to back up their impressive victory over Manchester United last Sunday.
After entertaining Villa, who are five points better off than Watford, Pearson’s team will welcome Wolves to Vicarage Road on January 1.
He said: “We have got a run of home games coming up now and I don’t know how people see them, but they are all tough.
“We have got to try and emulate certainly the game last week against Manchester United in terms of creating a really good atmosphere at the ground and we need to win more games.”
The Hornets will have Ismaila Sarr fit despite an eye injury and will welcome Abdoulaye Doucoure back for the clash with Villa after a one-match ban for receiving five yellow cards in the Premier League this season.
He is expected to replace Nathaniel Chalobah, but Watford remain without Jose Holebas (ankle), Tom Cleverley (heel), Danny Welbeck (hamstring), Sebastian Prodl and Daryl Janmaat (both knee).
New signing Joao Pedro is ineligible to make his debut until January and Pearson is tempted to bring in more reinforcements when the winter transfer window opens.
“We have lost a bit of depth in the squad just because we have a number of senior players who have been out so it will be a bonus to get them back,” he said.
“It coincides with January as well and I’m not discounting that we might as a club freshen it up, but those discussions are ongoing.
“At this moment in time it is about managing the fixture congestion and keeping the players we’ve got available as fresh as possible and continue with our fight to find a way back into contention of getting out of the bottom three.”