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We won’t single out Zaha, says Watford boss Gracia

UK Sport | Published:

The Hornets take on Crystal Palace in the FA Cup quarter-finals this weekend.

Watford boss Javi Gracia knows beating Crystal Palace to reach the FA Cup semi-finals will be about more than just keeping Wilfried Zaha quiet.

The Hornets host Palace on Saturday looking to continue what has been a largely positive campaign under the Spaniard with a trip to Wembley.

There is little love lost between the sides, Palace having been beaten 2-1 in a feisty Premier League encounter at Vicarage Road during August last year.

After the match, Watford captain Troy Deeney said the players “take it in turns” to rough up Zaha, who was on the end of a raking challenge from behind by Etienne Capoue which on another day could have been punished with a red card rather than a caution.

Gracia has a full squad to pick from for the cup tie, but has no intentions of singling any one Palace player out for special treatment.

“I don’t use that tactic. I don’t use it,” the Watford boss said when asked about Deeney’s comments.

“When we prepare the games, we are always thinking about playing well and trying to beat the other team, not thinking only about one player.

“I think it is something collective. We have to be ready to compete this way, not only thinking about Zaha or other players.”

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Gracia recently agreed a new contract extension at Vicarage Road, having slowly helped move the Hertfordshire club forwards since his appointment in Janaury 2018.

The season could yet finish with a highest Premier League finish, the Hornets just a point behind seventh-placed Wolves, as well as potentially two trips to Wembley in the FA Cup.

“It’s something different, something special. We are so close to play in a semi-final. We feel it and know it’s important,” Gracia said at a press conference reported by the club.

“It is a very good chance for us but also Palace as well. We have to play well, and when the game is finished we’ll see if we are able to achieve the semi-final at Wembley or not.

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“It is the last chance to carry on in this competition. We are going to play like we usually do.”

Although beaten 2-1 at home by Brighton last weekend, Palace have slowly moved themselves away from the Premier League relegation zone as veteran boss Roy Hodgson plots another campaign of top-flight security.

“Playing against Palace is always very demanding,” said Gracia, whose side lost 3-1 at Manchester City last time out.

“They have a very good squad and a very good coach.

“All the games have been very, very close. We have to be ready knowing it will be a very close game again.”

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