Heurelho Gomes will start against West Ham and perhaps at Wembley

Quique Sanchez Flores revealed Heurelho Gomes will play against West Ham United tomorrow night and refuses to rule out the Brazilian starting Watford’s FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace on Sunday.

The Hornets make the relatively short journey to east London tomorrow evening to play a game that, in the grand scheme of their season, means very little. Watford are all but safe in the top flight. Defeat at the Boleyn Ground won’t change that.

Sanchez Flores claims he is only focused on West Ham and not the semi-final at Wembley, but his admission that there are likely to be at least seven changes to his side against the Hammers tells its own story. Key members of the side will be rested, but not Gomes. The 35-year-old will start. That appears to suggest Costel Pantilimon would keep goal in the semi-final, following on from his appearances in round four, five and the quarter-final.

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Picture plus main by Franziska Empl

“At the moment I am only thinking about tomorrow,” said the head coach. “Heurelho will play again and we will see what happens after. The only thing I can say is I have a lot of confidence in the goalkeepers. Gomes and Pantilimon are both ready to play. They are amazing professionals and good goalkeepers.”

Who will start in front of Gomes against Slaven Bilic’s side is pretty much a guessing game. It’s difficult to predict Sanchez Flores’ team selection at the best of times, let alone with Watford’s most important game of the campaign, and possibly in years, on the horizon. The Spaniard has ruled out Joel Ekstrand and Tommie Hoban as he believes it would be too big a risk to throw them in at Upton Park, possibly against the rampaging Andy Carroll.

Tommie Hoban
Picture by Sean Hinks

“Ekstrand isn’t ready,” Sanchez Flores said. “I was talking with him a few days ago and it wasn’t about this season. It would be a risk to him if we played him. He has worked really well and is improving a lot. He is nearly ready but it isn’t enough to go onto the list. It is the same for Hoban, too.”

Mario Suarez, Nordin Amrabat, Steven Berghuis, Almen Abdi, Juan Carlos Paredes, Jose Holebas and Obbi Oulare are all expected to feature. Sanchez Flores stresses those players who come into the side will be expected to perform.

Picture by Franziska Empl

“We are not trying out players” Sanchez Flores said. “We are simply choosing different players. There will probably be players who play tomorrow who will feature at the weekend. We will change a lot, as we have done regularly during the second half of the season. Tomorrow there may be seven changes. We will see. What is important is that if a player goes on to the pitch, it’s because they’re training well.”

Sanchez Flores has a full squad to choose from. Craig Cathcart, Holebas and Abdi have all returned to training after injuries and illness ruled the trio out of Saturday’s win over West Bromwich Albion.

Picture by Sean Hinks

The absence of Abdi saw Sean Murray named in the travelling party for the weekend’s game for the first time this season. Is the 22-year-old Watford-born midfielder in line to feature against the Hammers?

“Not exactly,” he said. “Murray is training very well. He had a loan earlier in the season but it didn’t work out for him. He is a player I like and is a very good professional.”