Championship - Almunia issues rallying cry

Manuel Almunia has urged Watford to embrace their promotion battle and not sink under the pressure of trying to secure a place in the Premier League.

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Manuel Almunia, Watford goalkeeper (PA Sport)

The Hornets appear to facing a two-way tussle with Hull for the second automatic promotion place in the Championship behind leaders Cardiff, who hold a five-point advantage and a game in hand.

Having suffered back-to-back league defeats for the first time since October before then throwing away a lead in injury time to draw at home to Burnley, Gianfranco Zola's side have responded by winning 1-0 at Hull and taking a point from Saturday's goalless draw against Cardiff.

And goalkeeper Almunia wants Watford to thrive in the heat of the five-match run-in.

"We have shown we can face any team, we can beat any team, and we are a very solid team with quality, with strength, with many positive things," he told the club's official website.

"We cannot be scared about being at the top, it's a beautiful thing. We've been working very hard during the whole season and we deserve to be where we are. It's a good moment for the club but we have to take it naturally.

"We don't have to put unnecessary pressure on our shoulders, this is what we've been fighting for all year and we have to enjoy it, but always focusing on our work."

The former Arsenal stopper made his eagerly-anticipated return between the posts against the Bluebirds at the weekend having missed the last six games due to a hamstring injury. And he was glad to be back.

"It's been too long for me because I wanted to be back very early," the Spaniard added. "I tried to come back too early after the injury and I got another injury, and it's been so long for me.

"It's been a nightmare but time goes very quick and I'm back and I hope I can help the team until the end of the season."

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