Watford boss Xisco Munoz ‘very sad’ after Peter Etebo ruled out until 2022

Xisco Munoz has expressed his sadness for Watford midfielder Peter Etebo after he was ruled out for the rest of 2021.

A torn quad muscle is set to sideline the Nigeria international for four to five months, which is not only a blow to the Premier League club but also to his country – who will compete in the Africa Cup of Nations in January.

Etebo was injured after he came on in the 75th minute of Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Newcastle.

“Yes, I am very sad about this – always when one of our players has a big injury,” Xisco said of the Stoke loanee before the weekend trip to Leeds.

“It is a problem for us and that is all you can say. It is a moment to try and give the best recovery for him. He is out for four to five months and this is a problem also for him because he had a very good attitude for our squad and team.”

While Xisco did not speak to the 25-year-old about being unavailable for the 2022 AFCON, the Spaniard did insist his squad could cope with Etebo’s absence.

The summer recruit has made a positive impression after arriving in July and started each of the club’s first five games in all competitions this season.

But he was on the bench in the last two fixtures with fellow new additions Moussa Sissoko and Ozan Tufan making their debuts for Watford in September.

Xisco added: “I didn’t speak nothing about this (AFCON). I spoke to him only about the injury and I wish him all the best.

“We have (Imran) Louza, Dan Gosling, Tufan and Tom Cleverley. We have a good level of players in this position.”

The former Manchester United midfielder Cleverley will be available for the game at Elland Road after he returned to training.

He suffered a blow to the face after a collision with Newcastle goalkeeper Karl Darlow during Saturday’s draw and was withdrawn as a concussion substitute.

Cleverley had to pass concussion return-to-training protocols before he could rejoin the group in London Colney but received the green light, and Daniel Bachmann was also back in the fold after a knee injury.

Watford travel to Yorkshire aiming to build more momentum after Ismaila Sarr, a nominee for the Premier League September Player of the Month, struck his fourth goal of the season to earn a point against Newcastle.

“Sarr for us is very important and for the Premier League too. He is a top player and always gives a good level and performance, so I think it is great for us if he wins this award,” Xisco said.

“I think he has very good values and does good things for the team. Sarr tries his best for everyone, is working hard every day and he does very good for the young guys.

“He is working to get better and do more in different situations. This is good for him, to try and improve in different conditions.”