Championship play-offs: Gianfranco Zola claims Watford are ready for 'World Cup'

Zola makes his debut in the play-offs tonight when his Watford side take on Leicester City

Gianfranco Zola believes the pressure of the Championship play-offs can be compared to battling for the World Cup.

Zola makes his debut in the play-offs tonight when his Watford side take on Leicester City in the first leg of their tie to reach Wembley and play in a winner-takes-all final.

The winners are expected to pick up more than £100million by reaching the Premier League, making the next three games like cup finals for Zola's men. "I never played in the play-offs, that is for sure," Zola said. "I can only imagine the importance is more like playing a World Cup or a European Championship.

"It's a series of finals you are playing. You go step by step, making the most of each game and going to the next one trying to adapt to the situation. The most important thing is to go with the joy to compete - there are 18 teams that would like to be in the position we are."

Zola is hopeful of Manuel Almunia and Jonathan Bond being fit for tonight's first leg at the King Power Stadium. Their injuries led to defeat against Leeds United and ended hopes of automatic promotion – and the manager has backed his young squad to deal with the pressure of having so much at stake. "I take it in a positive way. I know if I want to be a successful manager I will have to get used to playing important game after important game," he said.

"If you only think about what you are playing for, the pressure will get on top of you. If we do the things we have been doing through the season we could be good enough to win."

Zola also insisted the club is ready for the Premier League despite being ahead of schedule in terms of progress since the Pozzo family took over last year. He said: "We were not planning for a season like this but the club is very well organised and they are ready to adapt to the new situation if it happens."

Kick-off 7.45pm TV Sky Sports 1

Referee N Swarbrick (Lancashire)

Odds Home 4-1 Draw 11-4 Away 8-11

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific