8.25am EDT 08:25 8 min: Schlupp blooters high and long. The ball hangs in the wind. Cathcart does well to compose himself under pressure from Batshuayi, controlling and clearing his lines. Palace are much the brighter team in these opening moments. 8.23am EDT 08:23 6 min: Meyer and Townsend both look in the mood. They
8 min: Schlupp blooters high and long. The ball hangs in the wind. Cathcart does well to compose himself under pressure from Batshuayi, controlling and clearing his lines. Palace are much the brighter team in these opening moments.
6 min: Meyer and Townsend both look in the mood. They combine again, the latter pushing Watford back on the left. He cuts back to Milivojevic, who doesn’t quite catch his shot from the left of the D. Gomes gathers, the ball dribbling towards the bottom left, though not in particularly clean fashion, fumbling then claiming the loose ball.
5 min: Meyer bustles down the inside-left channel and slips a pass forward to Townsend, whose dribbling again causes Watford a little concern. Mariappa does very well to come across and blot out the attack.
4 min: A fine burst down the left by Pereyra. For a second it looks as though he’ll break clear into the box, but Tomkins sticks to his side and shepherds him away from danger. Then Townsend counters down the Palace left, but he’s only got Batshuayi up in support, and can’t find him with his cross. A couple of neat runs there, though.
2 min: A fair bit of wind around. Both teams struggling to get their foot on the ball in the early exchanges. Plenty of time left for this to turn into a classic for the ages.
And we’re off! The hosts get the quarter-final underway. VAR is in operation today, for the first time at Vicarage Road. And this tie will be decided today, after extra time (with a fourth sub available) and penalties if necessary. It’s on!
Here come the teams! Watford, the 1984 finalists, are dressed in their yellow and black stripes. Palace, finalists in 1990 and 2016, wear second-choice white with Team of the Eighties retro sash. A rare old noise being made at Vicarage Road! We’ll be off in a minute.
BT Sport chat to Roy Hodgson, and he fills up plenty of airtime with some metaphorical musing. “When you get this far in the competition, you see the Wembley towers in front of you and you dream of getting there. So you know how important it is to give a good performance on the day. It’s never easy going away from home, to a Premier League club, but we’ve got this opportunity and I hope the players will do their level best. It would be wonderful if we could reach the semi-final. I’ve never reached the semi-final in England, I’ve been lucky enough to do it once or twice in foreign countries, but the quarter-final is the first time I’ve got so far in the FA Cup, so it’s an opportunity for the players to elevate me to a new milestone in my career! It would be very nice if they do! I don’t know why our away form is so good, it’s quite strange. Our level of performance hasn’t varied enormously. I think we’re being shown quite a lot of respect at home these days. We don’t have a vastly different approach. Wilf Zaha has a tight hamstring, we’ve been nursing it all week, unfortunately he didn’t come through so we didn’t want to risk him.”
Pre-match pint and pie / vegan sausage roll.
After the free-jazz selection stylings of the Etihad, Watford make eight changes, reverting to old ways. Heurelho Gomes, Adrian Mariappa, Craig Cathcart, Jose Holebas, Will Hughes, Roberto Pereyra, Gerard Deulofeu and Troy Deeney return; they take the places of Ben Foster, Darryl Janmaat, Miguel Britos, Adam Masina, Christian Kabasele, Tom Cleverley, Isaac Success and Andre Gray.
Palace are relatively unchanged by comparison. Just the three switches from the starting XI for the Brighton game. Martin Kelly, Cheikhou Kouyate and Max Meyer come in for Patrick van Aanholt, Scott Dann and Wilfried Zaha.
Watford: Gomes, Kiko, Mariappa, Cathcart, Holebas, Hughes, Doucoure, Capoue, Pereyra, Deulofeu, Deeney.
Subs: Dahlberg, Kabasele, Janmaat, Masina, Cleverley, Success, Gray.
Crystal Palace: Guaita, Wan-Bissaka, Kelly, Tomkins, Schlupp, Milivojevic, Kouyate, Meyer, McArthur, Townsend, Batshuayi.
Subs: Hennessey, Ward, Woods, Riedewald, Wickham, Benteke, Ayew.
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire).
The Eagles have broken Hornet hearts a couple of times recently. Crystal Palace pipped Watford to promotion in the 2013 Championship play-off, Kevin Phillips doing the business from the spot in extra time; then they won again at Wembley in the 2016 FA Cup semis, Yannick Bolasie and Connor Wickham the goalscoring heroes in a 2-1 victory. A couple of crunch victories there. Can Palace make it three in a row?
Perhaps, though the omens are otherwise good for Watford. The Hornets have won their last three FA Cup quarter-finals, in 2003, 2007 and 2016. They’ve not been defeated at Vicarage Road in the cup since Spurs won there in 2012, a run of five successive victories. They’ve never lost at home to Palace in the cup. And Javi Gracia’s side have already beaten Roy Hodgson’s men twice in the league this season, 2-1 on both occasions.
Both teams come to this match on the back of a loss, Watford at Manchester City, Palace in the M23 derby with Brighton. But on the whole their form is decent. Watford have won four of their last six, their only two defeats coming at title scrappers City and Liverpool. Palace meanwhile have won their last three away games comfortably, at Doncaster, Leicester and Burnley. So everyone has plenty of hope in their heart, one step away from Wembley and the last four. It’s on!
Kick off: 12.15pm GMT.