Quique Sanchez Flores has confirmed he will field very different sides against West Bromwich Albion and West Ham United in order to ensure Watford’s players are fresh for the FA Cup semi-final.
The Hornets kick-off a defining week in their season on Saturday with a trip to The Hawthorns, where victory would take Watford above 40 points in the Premier League, the target set at the beginning of the campaign. The word from the training ground is that Sanchez Flores has relayed to the players that the game against Tony Pulis’ side is being treated as a full and final audition for them to stake a claim for a semi-final spot.
A final ever visit to West Ham’s Boleyn Ground follows on Wednesday evening, just four days before the Hornets walk out at Wembley to take on Crystal Palace in the last four of the FA Cup. That match takes absolute priority. Sanchez Flores and his coaching staff will begin preparing for that game on Sunday and that means sacrificing the best chance to get three points against the Hammers.
“There are a lot of players who will have an opportunity to play a game,” Sanchez Flores said. “We have two matches and that means a minimum of 22 players to choose from. We have to manage the situation because it is a physical and mental stress to play three matches in a week in England. I have to choose well and try all the players in these two matches. I want fresh players for the FA Cup and we have to make the best decisions for that. But we have 25 players in the squad and they have trained with us for the whole season. There are no excuses. The moment they go onto the pitch, no matter the opponent, they should be ready to play.”
The wholesale rotation is likely to mean Steven Berghuis and Obbi Oulare are given a rare chance in the first team. The latter has featured in the under-21s last two matches, perhaps in an attempt to sharpen him up for the trip to east London. Sanchez Flores was tight-lipped over who exactly could feature against the Hammers but he did rule out Alex Jakubiak’s fine form for the under-21s this season being rewarded with a call-up to the first-team.
“We have players in the first team who have been waiting for an opportunity,” said the Watford head coach. “So probably not [Jakubiak]. But I spoke with him yesterday because he trained with us. I am really happy with his progress.”