Crystal Palace and Watford go head-to-head at Wembley on Sunday and the layers are offering a tempting price about the Hornets coming out on top and booking their place in the final. Both sides are in the lower reaches of the Premier League table, and now that survival is all but secure their season’s rest on this game and potential FA Cup glory.
The Eagles may still have one eye looking over their shoulders but it’s unlikely that two of Norwich, Newcastle and Sunderland will overturn the points deficit to drag them into the bottom three, and boss Alan Pardew was confident enough to seven players for the midweek trip to Manchester United with this game in mind. Watford were equally focused on the FA Cup when they elected to rest several first team players in the midweek defeat at West Ham, and both teams will have their big-hitters back in the starting line up on Sunday.
Palace Back in Form?
Crystal Palace returned to form at just the right time to stave off relegation, but it has been a succession of draws that has garnered the points, with the sole league win of 2016 coming at home to relegation-threatened Norwich. They picked up draws against West Ham, Everton and Arsenal throughout April and should just about have enough to survive, but it’s been anything but a good season after reaching the dizzy heights of 5th before Christmas.
It’s goals that have been the problem, and they’ve only managed to score twice in the last four games. Emmanuel Adebayor was brought in during January to try and address that very problem but he hasn’t exactly hit the ground running and has only hit one goal since his arrival. The fact that Yohan Cabaye is the Eagles leading scorer with just six goals is a telling statistic, and one league win in 18 games has seen them drop like a stone down the table.
The FA Cup has been a welcome distraction from the dire league form, and they’ve beaten Southampton, Stoke and Spurs en route to this semi final. However, they are below Watford in the league and there is no reason why they should be priced up as slight favourites for this match.
Watford’s Remarkable Season
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The Hornets have had a very impressive first season in the top flight under Quique Sanchez Flores, and although they have dipped in form recently, their focus has been on this game ever since the supreme 2-1 win at Arsenal in the quarter final. They’re 12th in the table with 41 points and have never really looked like being in danger of relegation. The one thing Watford have that Palace so badly need is goalscorers, with Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo a formidable partnership up front. They have ten and sixteen goals for the season respectively and both sat out the majority of the game in midweek against West Ham. It’s that clinical finishing that could make all the difference on Sunday in a match that is unlikely to produce end-to-end goalmouth action.
These two sides met at Wembley in the 2012/13 Championship play off, with Palace running out the 1-0 winners after extra time, so there will be an air of revenge about Watford’s approach to the game even if few players remain in the side.
Their two meetings this season have resulted in away wins, with Palace beating Watford 1-0 at Vicarage Road, and the Hornets beating the Eagles 2-1 at Selhurst Park. Troy Deeney struck twice in that match and he will relish leading his beloved Watford out on the Wembley turf on Sunday.
In terms of team news neither side has too many injury worries to contend with, although Palace are sweating on the fitness of influential central defender Scott Dann. He will be a big miss if he doesn’t make it but no doubt the medical staff will be doing all they can to get him on the pitch. Ighalo and Deeney will both return to the Watford starting line up, and it’s those two players that can tip the weight of the tie in the Hornets favour.
Watford to beat Crystal Palace
Sunday 24th April, 16:00 GMT
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- Crystal Palace
- FA Cup Semi Final