Gianfranco Zola prepares for ‘World Cup’ clash against Leicester City

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Watford manager Gianfranco Zola has compared the Championship play-offs to playing in a World Cup tournament.

The Hornets travel to Leicester tonight (Wednesday) in the first leg of their play-off semi-final, and the Italian believes the pressure of the tie can only be equalled by that of a major international competition.

Speaking with the Daily Mail, Zola said: “I’ve never played in a play-off game - but I can only imagine the importance of it is like when you play in a World Cup or a European Championship.”

Despite narrowly missing out on automatic promotion to the Premier League on the last day of the season, Zola claims his side have put the 2-1 home defeat to Leeds behind them and are fully focused ahead of tonight's game against the Foxes.

“We have no regrets. What happened to us was very unfortunate,” added Zola. “We are starting again and are full of confidence. All the players are prepared."

“At the end of the day there are 18 teams who would like to be where we are.”

Following Bolton’s 2-2 draw with Blackpool, Leicester only qualified for the play-offs by beating fellow play-off hopefuls Nottingham Forest 3-2 at the City Ground.

And manager Nigel Pearson hopes this can springboard the club to success - and a ticket to the big league.

Pearson told the official Leicester website: “I think every emotion you could experience, we went through.

“The players have shown courage and that we are a very good team. We’ve given ourselves another chance and that’s the main thing. Now we’ve earned that extra chance we’ve got to make the most of it.”

Having been beaten by Watford 2-1 in the same fixture just last month, Pearson knows the tie will be difficult despite City’s recent triumph and Zola having to lift his side. 

“It could be but it would be wrong to make that assumption,” added Pearson.

“I think with the way that Gianfranco works and with the quality of players that he’s got, they’ll deal with it and it’ll be a tough game, but they will be thinking that as well.”

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Gianfranco Zola
Leicester City

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