Javi Gracia expected Nuno Espirito Santo to shine in the Premier League
Gracia’s Watford take on Nuno’s Wolves in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final.
Watford head coach Javi Gracia always knew Wolves counterpart Nuno Espirito Santo would succeed in the Premier League.
Gracia’s Hornets come up against Wolves in an FA Cup semi-final on Sunday with the two clubs also squabbling over seventh place in the league.
Gracia has impressed since taking over at Vicarage Road in January 2018, while Nuno has enjoyed a successful first campaign as a Premier League manager after guiding Wolves to promotion last season.
The pair came up against each other in Spain and Gracia never felt the Portuguese would struggle in the English top-flight.
“He was in Valencia, I remember when I was in Malaga,” Gracia said.
“He had a very good career and in this moment he is showing his level and his quality as well – I didn’t have any doubt about that.
“In my opinion he is a very good coach, in this moment he is training with a good squad, with a team which is playing really well, is well organised and you can recognise quickly the way they want to play, that is something good from a coach.”
As well as their battles in LaLiga, Gracia and Nuno met earlier this season as Watford won 2-0 at Molineux in October – although the Watford boss does not think that result will have any bearing on Sunday’s outcome.
“I think it was another moment,” he said. “They were playing with other players, another shape as they have changed something in their team.
“But it’s something good for us, we did it one time and can do it again but it is different.”
Despite Watford’s win at Wolves, Nuno’s side have recorded a string of eye-catching results on their return to the top-flight.
They have beaten Manchester United in both the league and cup, won against Tottenham at Wembley and were only the third side to beat Liverpool in a domestic game this season as they secured a 2-1 victory in the third round of the FA Cup.
“I think there is not only one reason to explain that,” Gracia added when asked why Wolves had picked up better results against the top team than his Watford side.
“They have played very well, not only against big teams. They are in seventh position because they have played well all season.
“Watford are the same, we beat Tottenham but after we lost against United and Arsenal, in my opinion playing well and competing well.
“Other games we were so close against City in both games, very, very close. Then I think it goes good for us to improve our level.
“There is no reason to explain why Wolves are able to achieve better results than us, for example, but in my opinion it is not the most important for our preparation – it is a game we can both win.”