Nigel Pearson has identified one of his former players as the Watford danger man to cause his Bristol City side problems on Saturday. Pearson comes up against the Hornets for the first time since his sacking at the Hertfordshire club in 2019.
City, currently in 20th and just three points off the relegation zone, host a Watford side in fifth. Slaven Bilic’s side have four wins in their last five, compared to the Robins’ two wins in their last ten matches. Saturday’s match at Ashton Gate is each side’s last until the three-week break for the World Cup.
Watford are already on to their second manager of the season with Bilic replacing Rob Edwards, who had only taken over in May. It has been seven managers since Pearson departed in July 2020, but some of the players from his tenure remain.
He knows all too well their strengths and has earmarked Brazilian forward Joao Pedro as the man who could be the thorn in his side this Saturday. Pedro joined from Brazilian club Fluminense as an 18-year-old in January 2020 and made four appearances under Pearson.
Pedro, only 21-years-of-age, has gone on to become an important player for the opposition after a move to Newcastle United didn’t take place this summer. He has got six goals and two assists in 16 appearances this season, but there is a hope that he won’t haunt his former manager this Saturday.
"Joao Pedro is very effective at dropping into the ten position and it suits his style of play," said Pearson. "When he signed I was there and he was certainly one for the future. He was a youngster then and he is still a young player now. He’s developing very well."
City have already played the two other teams relegated from the Premier League last term. Against both Burnley and Norwich City, they lost by just one goal. Watford will pose the same level of threat given their riches of parachute payments, which has allowed them to keep the core of their squad.
Home form has slipped as of late with only one win in their last five at Ashton Gate. Performances against Sheffield United and Swansea City have perhaps merited more points, but City have been positive in how they have approached games.
City’s game plan however will not be to just sit back and invite pressure from their opponents who have an artillery of attack-minded players. The Robins’ have an emphasis on counter-attacking football and have recorded more points when having a lack of possession.
"They’ve got pace in wide areas and up top," said Pearson when analysing Watford. "It will be a test for us without a doubt but we also have our midfield area, it’s going to be a critical position for us too.
"We need to carry that threat on the counter-attack. It’s important we go in with positive intent. I don’t believe in going to games like this and it just being about being disruptive and trying to stop them. What we have to do is carry a positive threat ourselves. Tough game but it’s also a good test for us and one the players should look forward to."