After all but securing their Premier League place for next season at the weekend, Watford rested seven players for their final trip to the Boleyn Ground last night. A game which saw West Ham leave with a 3-1 victory as they keep up their hopes of securing a European Spot.
Watford Head Coach Quique Sanchez Flores said beforehand that he would be making a number of changes. This number was seven with Juan Carlos Paredes, Craig Cathcart, Jose Holebas, Mario Suarez, Valon Behrami, Almen Abdi and Nordin Amrabat coming into the side.
This was to give key players such as Ben Watson,Odion Ighalo, Étienne Capoue, Miguel Britos and Troy Deeney a rest, even though Deeney came on with 15 minutes remaining.
The resting of these players could be a key factor this weekend as the Hornets head to Wembley hoping to avenged their 2012 Play Off Final defeat to Crystal Palace, as they face the South London side in the FA Cup Semi Finals.
One position that is causing a lot of debate between the supporters is that of who should start the game in goal. All throughout the FA Cup, January Transfer Window signing from Sunderland, Costel Pantilimon, has started. However, over the weekend number one goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes saved two Saido Berahino penalties which has left some supporters feeling that the Brazilian deserves to start in goal.
Whoever gets the nod has the experience to lead Watford to victory as both have shown to be extremely good goalkeepers this season, with the highlight for Pantilimon being the Quarter Final win at Arsenal.
In the back four, the favourites to start will be Allan Nyom, Craig Cathcart, Miguel Britos and Nathan Ake. However, there could be calls for Sebastian Prodl to start after he scored an impressive goal against West Ham in the week, but most feel that the back four that have played the majority of the season deserve their starting place.
With Watford likely to stick to their 4321 formation, the three central midfielders will be key in the game. It is almost certain that two of the three places will be taken up by French midfielder Étienne Capoue and Englishman Ben Watson, a player who scored the winning goal in the 2013 FA Cup Final where Wigan beat Manchester City 1-0.
The other midfield position could go to one of three men. The first candidate is Algerian International Adlène Guedioura. The summer arrival from Palace scored the winning goal in the Quarter Final against Arsenal with a rocket of a shot. He has also been involved in league games in recent weeks and grabbed an assist on Watson’s game winner away to West Brom at the weekend.
Another summer arrival who has a chance at taking the place is former West Ham player Valon Behrami. The Swiss international has bags of experience but has been in and out of the side all season leaving his place in doubt.
The final option is former Atletico Madrid midfielder Mario Suarez. After arriving from Fiorentina in January, Suarez has struggled to make an impact on the side. He has the potential to be one of, if not the best midfielder in the Watford side, but he hasn’t adapted to the English game as of yet.
One of the two places behind the main striker will be taken by captain, and Watford legend Troy Deeney. The Englishman has already hit nine goals so far this season and is one of the few players that remain from the side that lost to Palace in 2012.
The other position could have been filled by ex-Malaga forward Nordin Amrabat. However the Moroccan international received two yellow cards in the midweek game so is suspended for the Semi Final.
The front runner to take this place in the side is another ex Atletico Madrid player in Jose Manuel Jurdao. The Spaniard has been involved in the side all season long after his summer arrival, and also played under Flores in Madrid so is a likely starter.
One player who might be a threat to Jurado for this position is Swiss midfielder Almen Abdi. He has struggled this season to break into the side, but on his day he has the potential to be a game changer, as he showed in his time with Watford in the Championship.
There is only really one option for Watford in the main striker role, but what an option it is in Nigerian International Odion Ighalo. The former Udinese man has 14 goals so far this season and was even rumoured with a move to Manchester United in the January Transfer Window.
Despite going off the boil since the turn of the year, Ighalo still has the skill to change a game on its head as he has shown multiple times this season and he is certain to start on Sunday.
Overall Watford have a good chance of making only their second FA Cup Final in their history on Sunday when they face Crystal Palace and will be hoping they can look forward to another trip to Wembley in May.
My Watford line up v Crystal Palace:
Nyom Cathcart Britos Ake
Capoue Watson Guedioura
Bench: Gomes, Prodl, Holebas, Suarez, Behrami, Abdi, Berghuis