Watford manager Walter Mazzarri continues to be distracted by off-the-field issues ahead of the visit of Liverpool in the Premier League, after having to explain his relationship with former executive chairman Raffaele Riva. Amid an investigation into a forged bank letter allegedly used to support Gino Pozzo becoming sole owner in 2014 – Riva has stepped away from Vicarage Road this week and been replaced by chief executive Scott Duxberry as the club brace for a conclusion to the enquiries made by the England Football League.
The Hornets have performed admirably since the allegations published by The Daily Telegraph shook the club to its very core. The newspaper claim they used a fake letter from HSBC to prove to the then Football League [now EFL] that Pozzo had the funds to bankroll the club for the foreseeable future. A heavy fine or even a points deduction could be imposed if the club are found guilty of any wrongdoing.
Mazzarri remains focused on the task in hand amid the allegations hanging over the club and protests from supporters during the 1-0 win over Hull City, a victory which took Watford above Manchester United in the Premier League table and saw the club enjoy an unbeaten October. But the Italian coach has been forced to clarify his relationship with the departed Riva, who replaced Graham Taylor as chairman in 2012.
"I never met him and never had the pleasure to meet him," he said, according to the Watford Observer. "I know he was in charge in that position but I never had the pleasure to meet him. I always speak inside the club with the owner Gino Pozzo, chief executive Scott Duxbury and sporting director Luke Dowling. This was all cleared in the club statement. I don't need to add anything else to that. Anything to add to it wouldn't be beneficial or give anything else to this matter."
Fortunes off-the-field are similarly testing for Mazzarri, after news defender Sebastian Prödl will miss the game at Liverpool with an abductor injury picked up against Hull last week. The Austrian was replaced with three minutes remaining and will now see his run of playing every one of Watford's Premier League games this season end at Anfield.
Forward Stefano Okaka is also likely to miss out with a hamstring problem which has kept him out since he limped out of his debut against West Ham United in September. The ex-Roma man is joined on the sidelines by Isaac Success, who is not due to return until after the upcoming international break.
"Unfortunately Prodl has been added to the injury list," added Mazzarri, as he confirmed his three-man injury list for the Liverpool clash. "I don't think that he will be able to be available for this weekend but we will see. We will also try to get Okaka at the last minute but I don't want to run the risk of him getting even worse or more injured.
"We will see at the last minute if he is ready but this is the situation. You saw on Saturday he [Prodl] had a muscle problem which is why he was taken off and Christian Kabasele went in. It's an injury which is not very worrying but cannot be resolved in a matter of one week."