Quique Sanchez Flores, whose success as a coach has been underpinned by silverware in knockout cup competitions, plans to treat the FA Cup tie with Newcastle United seriously, casting doubt over whether he’ll use the third-round tie at Vicarage Road as a chance to give some peripheral squad members some much-needed first-team football.
Giedrius Arlauskis, Adlène Guedioura, Steven Berghuis, Obbi Oulare, Sebastian Prödl, Ikechi Anya and Valon Behrami are in desperate need of game time. Alessandro Diamanti and Victor Ibarbo are too but they are much further down the pecking order and are unlikely to be involved in the second half of the season so will probably not come into consideration for the cup tie with the Magpies. Juan Carlos Paredes is injured. The inclusion of Alex Jakubiak in the squad would represent recognition for his rich goal-scoring form for the Under-21s this season.
Sanchez Flores has been reticent when it comes to using his squad players in Premier League games and it is by no means certain he will rotate against Steve McClaren’s side.
“We try to be serious with this competition,” he said. “We respect a lot its history, it’s a historic competition in England. We try to put the best team possible. I want to be serious with the FA Cup. We’ll see how we arrive in terms of physical for this match.”
Factored into Sanchez Flores’ risk-averse thinking will be the blow to confidence levels and further loss of momentum if he were to play fringe players and lose a third successive home match, handing Newcastle a psychological edge ahead of the league game on Saturday, January 23. On the flip side, Watford travel to Southampton on Wednesday so the head coach may opt to rest those with plenty of minutes and miles under their belt with one eye on the game at St Mary’s.
The head coach changed the entire XI for the Capital One Cup tie at Preston North End, starting Almen Abdi, Ben Watson, Miguel Layun, Matej Vydra, Fernando Forestieri, Gabriele Angella, Juan Carlos Paredes, Nathan Ake and Arlauskis. Asked if he expects Sanchez Flores to ring the changes on Saturday, Watson said:
“Possibly, especially with the squad we’ve got. I’ll be more than willing to play and I’m sure a number of players would like to play.”
Watson famously scored a late headed winner against Manchester City in 2013 to clinch the trophy for Wigan Athletic, proving an unfancied Premier League side can go all the way to Wembley.
“It’s a cup competition that the big five or six used to take really serious,” said Watson. “Now the league and Champions League is the most important, so it’s definitely a competition, if we get a fair draw, we’ve got a great chance in. It’s a tough game against Newcastle, tough but anything can happen in the FA Cup. Hopefully we can get through this round and then you never know what can happen.”
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