1:05pm Monday 14th January 2013
By Frank Smith
Cristian Battocchio vindicated Gianfranco Zola's decision to play the midfielder ahead of John Eustace and Mark Yeates on Saturday, according to the Hornets' head coach.
Battocchio was handed just his second start for Watford during the 2-1 victory away to Middlesbrough and the 20-year-old didn't disappoint, putting in an accomplished display.
Jonathan Hogg, Almen Abdi and Nathaniel Chalobah have seemingly become Zola's first choice trio in midfield, with John Eustace out injured for most of the season, although Mark Yeates has made 16 starts during the 2012/13 campaign.
Eustace returned from injury against Manchester City as part of a 3-4-3 formation, with Hogg and Abdi out, but it was Battocchio who was handed a place in the starting XI when the Hornets returned to 3-5-2 at the weekend, with Abdi also back in the team.
Zola said: "John played a game after four months out against Manchester City and normally when you come back from a longer injury, the first game is always very good but in the second you start to drop and that was one reason [why Battocchio started].
"The second reason is that Battocchio is a midfielder who has done very well every time I have played him and for the type of game we were going to play, he was more suited to the match than John and Mark Yeates. Mark has done very well for us but I needed that type of midfielder. The way Cristian played, he proved me right."
Battocchio has made eight appearances for Watford since he joined on loan from Udinese in the summer.
The 20-year-old midfielder was born in Argentina but left Newell's Old Boys three years ago to join Udinese.
He was highly-rated in Argentina and reportedly trained with the Old Boys' first team when he was just 14.
Battocchio has made nine appearances for the Udinese first team in the last couple of years and came on as a substitute against Fiorentina earlier this season.
The creative midfielder is an Italy Under-20 international for his adopted country.
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