Bournemouth will be determined to increase the gap between themselves and the drop zone when they face FA Cup quarter-finalists Watford, who are just four points away from the magic 40-mark.
Manager Quique Flores opted to rest several of his players for last weekend’s tie at home to Leeds United, but an own goal early in the second half was enough to see them through into the last eight of the world’s oldest domestic cup competition and further enhance what has been a tremendous season for the Hornets. Aside from a four-match losing streak around the turn of the year, they have rarely gone off the boil and that is a credit to Flores as well what looks to be a very united squad.
Top scorer Odion Ighalo has often come away with the plaudits this season thanks to his fine goalscoring exploits, but strike partner Troy Deeney has been equally impressive and it was he who emerged the hero following Watford’s last Premier League match away to Crystal Palace. Two cool finishes from the captain were the reward for an enterprising collective display, and here his strength, power and all-round game will be key to seeing off Bournemouth.
It was a case of having to live to regret missed chances that condemned the visitors to FA Cup elimination at the hands of Everton last time out, with Charlie Daniels being denied from his first half penalty and Dan Gosling heading straight at goalkeeper Joel Robles when well placed to equalise. Poor defending eventually put the game beyond them as they conceded a soft goal from a corner, leaving Eddie Howe to reflect on another disappointing home loss.
The poor recent record at the Vitality Stadium will come as a concern in their attempts to maintain Premier League status, so here they will be hoping to capitalise on their increased points haul on the road. It will be a tricky one as Watford will crowd the midfield and try to ensure that lone striker Benik Afobe has little to feed off, as he did in his last outing at home to Stoke City, while Tommy Elphick may have his hands full up against Deeney ahead of his expected return to league action.
The hosts are likely to make several changes from the side that started against Leeds, but they are still unable to call upon Jose Manuel Jurado.
Lewis Grabban is an injury doubt for Bournemouth, who are set to recall a number of their star players to the starting line-up.