Josh King & Adam Masina

The View On Watford – ‘Hornets Fans Would Love Another Cup Run’

Three years on from their second final appearance, Watford are preparing for another shot at Emirates FA Cup glory when they visit King Power Stadium on Saturday.
More on this story...

- Watford are the visitors to King Power Stadium this Saturday (3pm GMT kick-off)
- The Emirates FA Cup Third Round tie sees the holders take on the beaten 2019 finalists
- Leicester City's opponents are likely to focus on retaining their top-flight status, says Ryan Gray
- The Watford Observer reporter also discussed Claudio Ranieri’s return to Filbert Way

Leicester City’s third round opponents this weekend were finalists in 2019, losing out to Manchester City, and while Brendan Rodgers’ side lifted the trophy in May, Watford are yet to put their name on the prestigious cup.

Ahead of meeting the Foxes for the second time this term, Ryan Gray of the Watford Observer analyses the Hornets’ season to date and their ambitions for the cup competition. While supporters will be keen to progress, priorities may lie elsewhere, leading to the potential for several switches in personnel.

Sitting 17th in the Premier League table as thing stand, two points above the relegation zone, the Hertfordshire outfit are looking to avoid an immediate return to the second tier following promotion in 2020/21.

“They are firmly in that relegation battle and recent results haven’t been that encouraging either,” Gray explained to LCFC Radio's Matchday Live show. “So, I think there’s going to be a lot of changes to the Watford team.

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Emmanuel Dennis & Cucho Hernández
Emmanuel Dennis & Cucho Hernández

Emmanuel Dennis has scored eight times in the Premier League this season.

“I’m expecting the likes of Ashley Fletcher to be given a chance and one or two other players or are maybe on the fringes, the likes of Dan Gosling, he might get a chance as well.

“This really isn’t much of a priority for Watford, as much as I’m sure the fans would love to see them put together another FA Cup run. Since they got to the final three seasons ago, they haven’t got past the third round, but I think this season isn’t the time for it.

“I think the fans just want them to stay up. They are quite realistic in their expectations. As a newly promoted side, it’s very difficult to get through that first season and not drop back down and that’s what the Watford fans are hoping for this season.

“I think they probably wouldn’t want it to be a draw... extra-time and penalties is not something that would suit them, so if it’s even nearing the end of the game, then you might see them push a little bit forward and really try and get that win to get it over and done with in 90 minutes.

“The last thing that any team wants, not just Watford, is playing extra football.”

if they can play with that high press as they have done since [Claudio] Ranieri came in, they may see an opportunity there to perhaps get that win on the road.

Ryan Gray Watford Observer

Leicester came out on top in the Premier League fixture between the sides on Filbert Way at the end of November, winning 4-2 thanks to Jamie Vardy’s double and further strikes from James Maddison and Ademola Lookman.

However, Watford were competitive and did find the net in each half, via a penalty from Josh King and Emmanuel Dennis’ 61st-minute goal. But while their attacking play was in full flow, it was a game that also highlighted defensive flaws.

“Watford will be encouraged by the way that they were able to create one or two chances against Leicester,” Gray continued. “A second goal with [Emmanuel] Dennis pressing and stealing the ball back, if they can play with that high press as they have done since [Claudio] Ranieri came in, they may see an opportunity there to perhaps get that win on the road.

“At the minute, they do have one or two problems defensively, they haven’t kept a clean sheet in the league all season, so the club have started acting quickly in the transfer market to find defensive targets.

“And we’re hoping that they can get Ranieri the players that he needs to change the run because things are looking a bit perilous in the league and, as much as they would like to be competitive in the FA Cup, I just don’t think it’s the season for it.”

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Claudio Ranieri
Claudio Ranieri

Ranieri received a warm ovation from the King Power Stadium crowd upon his first return.

The return of Leicester’s Premier League title-winning manager, Claudio Ranieri, is an exciting prospect for the Italian, Gray believes, but was also keen to stress that he will not dwell on the sentimental value of the visit and focus on the task in hand.

“Claudio is definitely looking forward to going back again,” the journalist admitted. “He was given a nice greeting last time and he obviously still has that really strong connection because of what he achieved at Leicester.

“But he will be able to see past the occasion and think of this game. The next two games they have in the league are Newcastle and Norwich, who are two teams they are directly up against in the relegation battle.

“I think he is probably going to have his mind more on that than the game this weekend, as much as he might say differently.”

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