It is a huge opportunity on Sunday for two sides who have never won the FA Cup to reach the final of this year’s competition as Crystal Palace take on Watford in what promises to be a close encounter as just two points separate them in the league.
When Watford reached the final back in 1984 it was something of a fairytale, while Palace were beaten in 1990 in the last ever final to go to a replay, losing to what became an infamous goal from Mark Robins. But these two have more recent history at Wembley as they met in the Championship play-off in 2013, where Palace won thanks to an extra-time penalty, so that adds a little more of the proverbial spice to this particular encounter.
Neither side comes into this one in great Premier League form with both having done enough to ensure safety. Eagles boss Alan Pardew opted to rest several of his regular first-team players for the game at Manchester United on Wednesday, so they should be totally fresh and ready to go for this one. Since the turn of the year the FA Cup has been the only source of happiness for the club, as they have gained some impressive victories while at the same time plummeting down the league table.
Yannick Bolasie is always a man to watch, but their biggest threat here may just be Wilfried Zaha, who has enjoyed facing Watford in the past. It was he who won the penalty three years ago to allow Palace to win promotion, while he was also the man brought down for the spot-kick that led to his side’s winner when they met at Vicarage Road back in September. Set-pieces are also a strong suit, so they will be looking to make one such chance count.
It has been a tremendous campaign for Watford and it will only get better if they manage to book their place in the final. With another season of top-flight football long secured, they have been building up to this one for some weeks following their immense achievement in knocking out holders Arsenal. That was a display that deserves a shot at winning the competition, and their stout defensive shape may give them a great chance of doing so here.
Going forward, it would be the perfect time for striking pair Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo to rediscover their scoring boots after suffering a dry spell over the course of the second half of the season. Whatever happens they will be a threat and unlike Palace they provide a genuinely coherent attacking setup.
James McArthur is back from injury for Crystal Palace and could feature, while Scott Dann appears to have recover from the knock that forced him off against Arsenal last weekend.
Watford are expected to make changes from their midweek defeat at West Ham United, and one man who will definitely make way is Nordin Amrabat, who serves a one-match ban after being sent off in that match.
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