Watford v Crystal Palace tips, betting preview & TV channel
FA Cup quarter-final
BT Sport 2, 12.15pm Saturday
Javi Gracia made it abundantly clear last week that the FA Cup has become Watford’s sole focus this season, though Roy Hodgson can dash the Spaniard’s dream at Vicarage Road.
Watford boss Gracia made seven changes at Manchester City in the Premier League on Saturday and duly saw his side beaten 3-1.
He claimed he had a big squad and likes to rotate his team, but there was little doubt that his priority is preparing for a massive knockout joust with Palace with a Wembley semi-final the prize for the winners.
The thinking is sensible enough, but you don’t always get what you wish for and punters who have enjoyed making a profit backing Palace on their travels this season should retain faith in the Eagles.
Palace are a real Jekyll & Hyde outfit who struggle at Selhurst Park, where they have won just five times this term. On the road, however, they have conjured up nine wins, notably at Manchester City and Wolverhampton.
They have won five of their last seven away games, the only defeat being an epic 4-3 loss at Liverpool. They are a risk rarely worth taking at short odds but this time they are a perfectly acceptable price for a side with their away record.
This looks like a tussle between two sides with precious little to choose between them.
Indeed, even though Watford have done the league double over the Eagles this season, both matches ended 2-1 and the Hornets were not convincing winners either time. Over the two matches they mustered just seven efforts on target.
They were indebted in large part to the heroics of the underrated Ben Foster, who has made 97 saves this season, that’s 23 more than whoever has been patrolling the Palace onion bag.
Palace have had 75 more shots than Watford and hit the woodwork 14 times. There is a ten-point gap between the clubs in the table but if the Eagles were slightly less wasteful in front of goal that chasm would probably shrink to nothing.
Of the last 12 meetings between these teams, four have ended in draws and the other eight were settled by the odd goal.
The clubs perfectly illustrate the point that football is a game of the finest margins.
Having said all that, confidence is a key factor in the game and Watford are full of it. They have lost only four of their last 18 matches, all four to sides in the top six, and they are an uncompromising side to come up against with physicality across the pitch.
Top scorer Troy Deeney, despite scoring only two goals at home this season, is a handful, though the unsung midfield pairing of Doucoure and Capoue have really impressed.
Palace need to stop them dictating the game and then look, inevitably, to Wilf Zaha for something special.
The visitors have finally found a centre-forward in their January capture Michy Batshuayi, a player who Zaha looks comfortable playing alongside.
1pt 21-10 BoyleSports
Miguel Britos has overcome a leg injury so Javi Gracia has no injury concerns.
Bakary Sako is battling a calf problem but Wayne Hennessey and Pape Souare (shoulder) have been declared fit to return.
Palace have lost only two of their last 13 FA Cup ties.
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