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Watford v Leeds United: Flores harbours FA Cup final ambition

Quique Sanchez Flores hopes to take another step towards replicating the heroics of the Watford side that reached the FA Cup final in 1984 by beating Leeds United in Saturday’s fifth-round match.

Watford’s best performance in the competition came in the 1983-84 edition, when they ended as runners-up after a 2-0 defeat to Everton at Wembley.

Flores’ team overcame Premier League rivals Newcastle United in the third round before a slender win at Championship side Nottingham Forest.

Watford have never faced Leeds in the FA Cup but hold the advantage in their head-to-head record in all competitions, winning 10 of their 24 encounters in all competitions compared to seven victories for Leeds.

The Spanish coach wants a shift in focus from his team as they look to make the final for the first time in 22 years.

“The league is our main priority, of course, and we are really close, but now we are able to change the mentality when we are going to play in the FA Cup,” said Flores.

“Our focus this week is on the FA Cup, we are playing at home with our fans, so we accept the responsibility to try and win this match.

“We respect this competition and, of course, we would like to repeat the experience this club had in 1984 when they played in the final against Everton.”

Watford have been a surprise package in the Premier League this season and sit comfortably in ninth position after 26 matches.

Although Leeds are languishing in the bottom half of the Championship, Flores anticipates a challenge of top-flight calibre at Vicarage Road.

“I was analysing the Middlesbrough game [a 0-0 draw] and their other matches with our staff, and they have a good team,” he added.

“They play in the way that other Premier League teams play – with power, they try to play football, they have three players in the middle who play well – so we need to think well about this match.”

Leeds manager Steve Evans acknowledged his team face a difficult challenge against Watford, but expects a top performance from his side.

“We are taking on the second biggest success story of the Premier League this season,” he said.

“We have been working hard on a plan. This isn’t a league game, there’s no coming back. If you are average on the day, you’re out.”

Watford have concerns over the fitness of Miguel Britos (dead leg) and Jose Manuel Jurado (calf), while Joel Ekstrand (hamstring) and Tom Hoban (groin) remain sidelined.

Chris Wood is expected to miss out for Leeds due to a virus, but Gaetano Berardi could be in line for a first start since November.

Thu 18 Feb, 2016
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