Crystal Palace - Watford Preview: Two sides meet again under Wembley arch in FA Cup semi-final

Crystal Palace gear up for their biggest game in three years as they face the side they last beat at Wembley to secure promotion to the Premier League back in 2013.

Crystal Palace - Watford Preview: Two sides meet again under Wembley arch in FA Cup semi-final
Watford and Palace in their last meeting back in February in the Premier League. (Picture: Getty Images)

Crystal Palace gear up for their biggest game in three years as they face the side they last beat at Wembley to secure promotion to the Premier League back in 2013.

The last time Palace played at Wembley was three years ago where a Kevin Phillips penalty in extra-time secured promotion to the big-time over Watford, who they will be facing again on Sunday afternoon.

Since then the trajectory of both teams has been on an up; Watford secured promotion last season; while Alan Pardew masterminded a top ten finish for the Eagles despite only taking charge at Christmas time.

The game on Sunday is huge for the two clubs. For Palace it is there first semi-final since 1995 and it is probably their biggest game since the play-off final three years ago.

It hasn’t been a great year so far for Palace. Before Christmas they were knocking on the door of the European places, but a 14-game winless run which coincided with injuries to key players saw them slip down the league and in contention to drop out of the league altogether.

But in their last four league games form has picked up; a vital win against Norwich was followed by a unlucky draw with Everton, and then they travelled to the Emirates and gained an unlikely point which has seen them pull clear of the relegation scrap for now.

Puncheon's winner against Norwich a couple of weeks back meant a lot, can he repeat the trick / Sky Sports
Puncheon's winner against Norwich a couple of weeks back meant a lot, can he repeat the trick / Sky Sports

In Watford they play a side who have dealt with Premier League rigours really well since promotion; and in Quique Flores Sanchez they have a manager that has adjusted to top-flight football well.

The games the sides have played against each other have been tight affairs; a Yohan Cabaye penalty at Vicarage Road was enough for the Eagles, and then in February Troy Deeney scored the winner at Selhurst Park.

Teams News

Pardew revealed in his press conference that he has a full bill of health, meaning he will be able to pick his strongest eleven. Yannick Bolasie, Scott Dann, Joel Ward, and Joe Ledley have recovered from their knocks and are ready to start.

The long awaited return of James McArthur was a welcome boost for Palace, and he is in contention to face Watford this Sunday.

The only absentees are Brede Hangeland and Marouane Chamakh who have long term injuries.

Watford

Watford experienced the harsh reality of Wembley in 2013 when Palace secured promotion, and there were a number of players in that side that will line-up on Sunday, so they will be hoping fortunes will favour the Hornets at Wembley.

If it wasn’t for Leicester’s unbelievable season; the story of this campaign would probably have been Watford. They have done so well in their return to the top-flight and have garnered plenty of plaudits for the way they play.

And in Deeney and Odion Ighalo they have a strike partnership which has flourished this season; but recently the goals have dried up, and so has their form.

Sanchez’s charges have only won one game in eight, and in-fact there last victory came against Palace in February; so everything is pointing to a low scoring affair this Sunday.

Team News

Sanchez rested a few players for the most recent league against West Ham, where they lost 3-1; so Deeney and Ighalo will come back into the squad.

But Nordin Amrabat will miss out on the huge occasion after getting sent-off against the Hammers during the week.

The game Sunday is a tricky one to call, both teams have struggled for form recently; but whichever team can get there attacking players involved the most will have the better chances of winning, what is a huge game for both clubs.