Premier League football takes a step back today, with Crystal Palace making the trip to the home of Watford for the two sides’ eighth clash in the FA Cup.
Recent history will have the Eagles feeling confident, with 2016’s semi-final victory still fond in the memory for all those associated with the club – no doubt Connor Wickham will have been rewatching his 61st-minute winner on the day as we build up to kick-off.
Three years on from the game that secured the Eagles’ first FA Cup final appearance for 26 years, Wembley is again calling the boys of south London. However, Roy Hodgson must first navigate past Javi Gracia and his Hornets, in a game which promises to be close.
In the 12 previous matches between the two London clubs, the nine games that have resulted in a victor being decided have all been settled by the winning margin of just one goal.
Mamadou Sakho remains sidelined from the knee injury that saw the centre-half forced off towards the end of last month’s 4-1 away win at Leicester City.
However, Palace are boosted by the return of Pape Souare and Wayne Hennessey, who Hodgson has said are both fit to play in the cup tie.
Watford manager, Gracia, has stated that he has an entirely fit squad for today's tie.
Wholesale changes for the defeat at the Etihad Stadium suggests that Javi Gracia is eyeing a fresh and full strength Hornets XI for the FA Cup quarter-final against the Eagles. Therefore, a return to the traditional 4-4-2 for Watford - spearheaded by Troy Deeney and Gerard Deulofeu - is what Crystal Palace can expect.
Roy Hodgson isn’t a boss scared of altering formation and tactics, with the Premier League’s oldest ever manager having deployed 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 in this season’s previous clashes against Watford. However, in the FA Cup so far (a competition in which Palace are yet to concede a goal) Hodgson has favoured the 4-3-3 formation against Grimsby, Tottenham Hotspur & Doncaster.
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Stern John’s time at Selhurst Park may well have been short but it was most certainly sweet with the Trinidad and Tobago international writing himself into Holmesdale history: a 31st-minute opener for the Eagles in a 3-1 win against the Hornets back in 2010 was Palace’s 5000th goal in the Football League.
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This game will be shown live on BT Sport 2 from 11.45.
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