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Pantilimon to start while key pair face FA Cup fitness race

Costel Pantilimon will start against Leeds United on Saturday while Jose Manuel Jurado and Miguel Britos were due to resume full training with the squad this morning, according to Quique Sanchez Flores.

Pantilimon will make his second Watford appearance, against Leeds United on Saturday, since signing from Sunderland on a free transfer – his first came in the previous round against Nottingham Forest – when he replaces Heurelho Gomes in goal.

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“He is going to play because he is ready,” confirmed Quique Sanchez Flores. “He is an incredible goalkeeper, he covers perfectly for Gomes. We have confidence in this player, he is ready to play.”

Pantilimon played in every round for Manchester City in the 2013 competition before being controversially dropped for the final against Ben Watson’s Wigan Athletic. It is difficult to imagine Sanchez Flores making such an insensitive call, if Watford indeed reached Wembley, but the head coach underlined this morning the value of his No.1 stopper.

“Gomes is more than a goalkeeper,” said Sanchez Flores. “He’s leader, a good reference for the team and he transmits a lot of information. He’s an important player and important person.”

Picture by Paul Dawson
Picture by Paul Dawson

Equally important, perhaps even more so, is Troy Deeney, the totemic striker who responded to being left out against Tottenham Hotspur with a match-winning double against Crystal Palace, the second of which was brilliantly taken. Sanchez Flores is almost certain to start Deeney against Leeds, the team the man he refers to as his father supported when he was alive.

“Probably he plays, yes,” said Sanchez Flores. “We have to plan something [for Deeney] as he’s playing everytime. He’s always ready to play and he represents our system, our style of play. He’s always ready. I was expecting this response from Deeney. When he scored, I was very happy.”

Picture by Paul Dawson
Picture by Paul Dawson

The head coach will also have been delighted to see two of his key players run out for training this morning, the penultimate session before the fifth-round tie at Vicarage Road. Both missed the Premier League win over Crystal Palace.

“Britos received a very strong kick against Tottenham in the muscle,” explained the head coach. “It wasn’t working well. It’s a dead leg. He improve a lot in the last few days. Jurado has a little, little problem in the calf but he will try to train today.”

• Tickets are still on sale to Watford fans on the club’s ticket database for Saturday’s game. Click HERE for more details

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