Five key quotes from Michael O'Neill ahead of trip to Watford
Michael \O'Neil looking on during Stoke City Vs Rotherham on the 31st October 2020  (Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images).

Stoke City make the trip to Vicarage Road to face Watford tomorrow in a clash between two sides who have both earned 15 points from the opening nine games.

The Potters have picked up three wins from the last five games and they have only lost once away from home so far this season, while the Hornets have failed to earn three points in any of their previous three games.

On getting back to winning ways against Rotherham

Ahead of the game, Stoke manager Michael O'Neill revealed that it was vital that his side got the job done against the Millers on Saturday.

"It was important to win on Saturday having lost in mid-week. That is important that you dot allow defeats to fester. We did not do that.

"It was not a game that was easy on the eye at times, but when we watched it back we did what we need to do.

"We could have done a little bit better in terms of our attacking play at times but we were solid defensively, and we take that into the game against Watford.”

On their defensive performances

After nine games, Stoke have only conceded nine goals and have kept four clean sheets, and it is clear that O'Neill is pleased with his side's defensive showings so far this campaign, he said:

"I think defensively we have been very good this season. I am not sure on the exact number of clean sheets with cup games as well.

"We have good confidence whether we play with a back three or back four , and there has been consistency in a lot of use of the players.

"Morgan Fox can comfortably play at left-back or left centre back. That flexibility in our squad has been good.”

The former Northern Ireland boss continued: "We have been dealing with injuries as well and players that have been absent for us.

"The clean sheet is positive for Angus Gunn coming in and for the team as a whole."

On the injury problems ahead of Watford

When speaking of what shape the squad are in ahead of the trip to Vicarage Road, O'Neill said:

We have no additional problems from Saturday.

"James Chester is still going to be absent, Nathan Collins is unlikely to be fit and the longer ones, Sam Clucas, Joe Allen and Ryan Shawcross are still unavailable to us at this minute in time.

"We have not added to that list, but it will be good for us if those players can get back and challenge to be part of the squad as soon as possible."

On Watford

The Hornets currently sit in sixth on 15 points which is the same amount as Stoke - and O'Neill admitted that he expects the encounter to be a difficult test.

"I think for any team who comes down, there is always potential change. They have sold some players and brought some players in.

"They I think like any team who comes down, they are adapting to the Championship

"They have threats. Troy Deeney has been absent for most of the season but [Ismailia] Sarr up front has been very good and they have good players through the core of their team, like [Craig] Cathcart, [Tom] Cleverley, good players in midfield, [Etienne] Capoue.”

He continued: "We expect a tough game. When you go away to any of the teams that have been relegated from the Premier League, you expect a tough game and that is what we expect at Watford."

On football resuming through second lockdown

Finally, O'Neill announced that he is delighted that his side are able to continue playing in the Championship throughout the second national lockdown after it was revealed that the top six English leagues would be able to resume as normal.

"We certainly did not want to be going into a situation when we couldn't play. It is obviously disappointing that we have not been able to progress things from where we are at the minute.

We have to be mindful of the players too. They are being asked to play every three days, they are playing in empty stadiums- that in itself is a challenge.

"We are still operating with Covid restrictions in terms of how we travel as a team, how we prepare in the hotel away from home as well.”

O'Neill carried on to say:

"There is a lot for players to deal with, but we are delighted with the response that we have had and are delighted that we can continue playing.

"We have to be mindful that we continue to do everything by the guidelines and protect everyone in the environment of the club as well.”