Belfast Telegraph

Victory would give Watford the ideal boost ahead of FA Cup crunch, insists Gracia

Winning feeling: Watford boss Javi Gracia is keen to build some momentum ahead of the FA Cup semi-final with Wolves
Winning feeling: Watford boss Javi Gracia is keen to build some momentum ahead of the FA Cup semi-final with Wolves

By Kevin Jones

Watford boss Javi Gracia feels concentrating on beating relegation-haunted Fulham would be the best way to prepare for their FA Cup semi-final with Wolves.

The Cottagers head to Vicarage Road on the brink of dropping out of the Premier League, with another defeat set to see them follow Huddersfield down into the Championship.

Gracia's squad could be forgiven for having their minds elsewhere, already safe in mid-table and with Sunday's trip to Wembley to look forward to.

The Spaniard, though, has called for full focus tonight against a team still mathematically at least with a chance of beating the odds to stay up.

"I think the best way to prepare for that important game we play on Sunday is to try and win the next game," Gracia said. "That is the best way to respect the FA Cup and to respect the Premier League as well.

"I will choose the players I want, but I am always thinking about the best formation and the best line-up to win the game.

"In this moment, I am only focused on the next game. After Fulham, we have five days to prepare (for the semi-final).

"It was more difficult to prepare for this game after only a couple of days since Manchester (United). We always try to keep the same mentality."

Gracia added at a press conference reported by the club: "If they (Fulham) are in this situation at this moment, it's because they have had problems for a long period, not just now or tomorrow.

"I know the next game is very important for them, and I am very sorry for them. I know what it's like to be sacked, to be relegated with my hometown team.

"But we are professionals and must always try to do our best to win the next game."

As well as securing a return to Wembley in May, Watford are still in realistic contention to finish the Premier League campaign as high as seventh.

"We're improving day by day, it's the best signal for us," Gracia said.

"We are improving, being ambitious. With this attitude, we are in the right way to play better and better.

"This week is very important for our present and our future as well."

The Spaniard, who recently signed a contract extension, added: "When we achieved our first target in February to remain in the Premier League, it was something amazing for us.

"Now maybe everybody can forget our main target, but we want to make a step forward.

"We want to improve and finish in the best position in the table."

Forwards Isaac Success and Adalberto Penaranda will not be fit to face Fulham because of injury.

Midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah could be one of those given a chance to impress ahead of the semi-final.

"I think all my players are ready to play all the games in the future," Gracia said.

For Fulham, striker Aleksandar Mitrovic missed the home defeat by Manchester City with an ongoing stomach muscle injury but he was able to train yesterday and could be involved.

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