Watford boss Walter Mazzarri wary of Southampton reaction
Watford boss Walter Mazzarri is wary of how Southampton will react to their dramatic EFL Cup final defeat against Manchester United on Sunday.
Claude Puel's men, who Watford host in the Premier League on Saturday, battled back from two goals down against Manchester United to draw level at Wembley before Zlatan Ibrahimovic's late header condemned them to a 3-2 defeat.
Asked what kind of response could be expected from Southampton when they return to action at Vicarage Road, Mazzarri, quoted by Watford's official website, said: "Nobody can tell and nobody can know.
"For sure Southampton played a great game and maybe they are a bit disappointed because they could have gone at least to extra-time, or even won the cup.
"We will see on Saturday if they will react or not, but nobody can know this.
"We got confirmation that they are a very well-organised team and a very strong team."
Mazzarri's fellow Italian Manolo Gabbiadini scored both of Southampton's goals in the final, making it five in three appearances for the forward since his January switch from Napoli.
The 25-year-old is a player Mazzarri is well aware of and rates highly.
"I know him very well - for many years I've been following him," Mazzarri said.
"He used to be a Napoli and Sampdoria player (Mazzarri has managed both clubs) and this year he is just confirming what we all thought was going to happen.
"He is confirming that he is a great player."
Twelfth-placed Watford will be without Mauro Zarate but could have Daryl Janmaat (groin) and Costel Pantilimon (ankle) available for the clash with Southampton, who are one spot below the Hornets in the table.
Saints boss Puel insists he is under "no obligation" to play big-money short-term signing Martin Caceres.
Saints signed free agent Caceres to plug the defensive gap left by Jose Fonte's January move to West Ham and Virgil Van Dijk's ankle injury.
The 29-year-old is yet to feature though, and could even turn out for the under-23s on Monday rather than face Watford on Saturday.
Caceres has signed a bumper contract until the end of the season but Saints manager Puel remains adamant the ex-Juventus centre back must earn his first-team chance.
"There's no pressure for me, no obligation with any player," said Puel. "Young players, experienced players - all my players are important.
"I try to put my best players on the pitch. For the first team for me it's important to see good things."
Saints travel to Vicarage Road this weekend in a desperately quiet month featuring just two fixtures.
After the Christmas feast comes a late-season famine to leave Southampton's French boss Puel frustrated - but still intent on selecting his strongest line-up this weekend.
And if Caceres does not win favour at Watford then Puel admitted he may throw the new arrival into action for the under-23s.
"He improves step by step in every training session," said Puel. "I don't know if he can start the next game; perhaps we can see him with an opportunity to play for the under-23s against Chelsea on Monday.
"It's perhaps a good opportunity for him to play a good official game against the good young players of Chelsea."
While Puel has spent the first half of the campaign rotating his resources, he admitted that will now become more difficult.
"From the start of the season it was important to give people game time," said Puel.
"Now we have two players competing for each place and that's a good thing.
"But of course now it's difficult to keep everyone in a good concentration and a good spirit."