Birthday boy Jefferson Lerma is expected to be in contention for AFC Bournemouth’s Premier League showdown at Watford tomorrow.
Lerma, who today turned 25, missed the Cherries’ 0-0 draw with Norwich six days ago after picking up a minor hip injury on international duty with Colombia.
But the combative midfielder has trained with Eddie Howe’s squad this week and could return for the trip to Vicarage Road (3pm kick-off).
Addressing the media at his pre-match press conference this morning, Cherries manager Howe said: “Jeff has come through training this week and should be okay.”
Howe reported no fresh injury concerns following the Norwich stalemate and said David Brooks, Dan Gosling and Junior Stanislas would remain sidelined.
Asked how close Brooks was to a return, Howe said: “He’s closer. He is on the grass but not with us so he’s still some time away.
“Junior is further away. He’s not back on the grass yet. Dan Gosling is in a similar position to David Brooks.”
The Cherries registered their first Premier League win against the Hornets last season, triumphing 4-0 at Vicarage Road thanks to Joshua King’s double and goals from Brooks and Callum Wilson.
An eventful 3-3 draw at Vitality Stadium in January saw all six goals scored in a frantic 26-minute spell in the first half as the teams shared the points for the sixth time in the top flight.
A poor start to this season saw Javi Gracia leave the clubs after five games in September with Quique Sanchez Flores returning for a second spell as head coach.
Previewing the game, Howe said: “We had two contrasting games against them last season. We had the really good win at their place and then the very entertaining draw here which was a crazy game.
“Vicarage Road is a ground we know well. We’ve been there a number of times in recent seasons and have always found Watford very difficult opponents so I’m sure it’ll be no different this season.
“We know the start they’ve had but I think it in no way reflects on their quality. They’ve got very good players and an outstanding manager so we know it’s going to be a tough game.”
Asked whether he was surprised to see the Hornets propping up the Premier League table having taken four points from their nine games, Howe replied: “Yes, because of the quality they have. Historically, they’ve been a very good Premier League team.
“They are very similar to us – they came up, consolidated and have done well every year. They seem to have built on the squad they’ve had and have recruited new players that have fitted in well so it’s a surprise.
“But I think it’s nothing permanent for them. I think it’s a temporary moment that they are finding themselves in.
“They’ve got the quality, they’ve proved that. They’ve got the manager they know and who has done very well for them so I think they will come back and show what a good team they are.
“From us going into this game, we have to forget about their league position. We have to concentrate on the game, give our best, give our all to win and match Watford’s desire to win.
“We can only control ourselves. If we went there focusing on their league position, it would be totally the wrong way to prepare for this game.
“For me, it’s a pivotal game. The league is so tight. If we could get a positive result, we could be looking upwards and, if we don’t, you are potentially looking the other way. Although it’s early stages in the league campaign, this is a key game.”