Hornets Buzzing As Wembley Draws Nearer

by | Mar 9, 2019 | Mitch MacCullom, News

There’s a definite buzz around Vicarage Road now that Watford have safely negotiated the fifth round of the FA Cup and, after being drawn against Crystal Palace in the quarter-finals, there’s a heightened sense of anticipation in the air. Should Watford manage to shoot down the Eagles, the reward of a trip to Wembley beckons for the semi-final.

Since 2008, all FA Cup semi-finals have been hosted at Wembley. This hasn’t always gone down well with the more traditional-minded fans, who believe that right should only be bestowed on the finalists. Nevertheless, it does give players and managers a greater chance of being able to play at the home of football in England at some stage in their careers.

For English players, in particular, there is certainly no greater honour than running out onto the hallowed turf of Wembley and Watford manager, Javi Gracia, may well use that as an incentive to get his players ready to put it all on the line against Crystal Palace.

It wasn’t all that long ago that these two teams actually did battle at Wembley. On that occasion, it wasn’t the FA Cup but rather the Championship play-off final. It would be Kevin Phillips’ penalty in extra time on a hot afternoon in the capital that would send Palace to the Premier League at the expense of the emotionally and physically shattered Watford. Six years on and both of these clubs are in the top flight, but only one of them can advance to Wembley when they meet again.

Palace will have to travel to Vicarage Road and play Watford, who are 11/1 to win the FA Cup, so there’s no getting away from the fact that this will be an incredibly tough test for Roy Hodgson’s men. Watford have won both meetings between the two clubs this season, which suggests they are indeed the better team.

A 2-1 victory in January was enough for the Hornets to complete the double in the league but that will count for very little when the two line up on March 16. There may even be a feeling that a sense of the inevitable is about to occur within the minds of the Watford supporters given how pessimistic and superstitious fans can be. This is a bigger game and the Vicarage Road faithful may well be thinking that because of that, it won’t be the one they win.

The Crystal Palace team in the FA Cup does look vastly different to the one that competes in the league for whatever reason and that will be a concern for Javi Gracia as he plots the way forward for Watford. It’s almost as if Hodgson’s team plays with a bit more of a swagger in the cup which might mean goals won’t be in short supply when they clash in front of a sold-out Vicarage Road.

If Watford stick to their usual brand of bold and lively football then there shouldn’t be a sting in the tail for the Hornets. Roy Hodgson will be aware of that and he will guard against his side trying to trade blows with Watford by matching their attacking threat or else they will be on the canvas soon after starting. The thing about an FA Cup quarter-final, however, is that game plans can quickly go out the window once a few challenges fly in and with Wembley the ultimate reward at the end, you can be absolutely sure no one will die wondering throughout the 90 minutes.

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