What he calls "simply the most magical cup competition in world football" will not be a simple distraction from the League for Steve Evans, manager of Leeds United, as he prepares his side to face a team he describes as the second biggest success story in the premiership, Watford FC.
Evans expects Watford to put out a very strong team for this 5th round cup tie, but Evans "has a plan." Let's face it, he will need a plan akin to performing a magic a trick to pull the proverbial white rabbit out of the hat and progress on Saturday afternoon, but maybe he's up for it.
Watford have two in-form Premiership strikers in the shape of Odion Ighalo (14 goals) and Troy Deeney (9) whilst Leeds will be without their injured hitman Chris Wood and will continue to rely on The resurgent Duke, Souleymane Doukara.
Watford fans are currently living the dream and can be excused if describing their football as Fantasy Football. They are currently sitting in 9th place in the Premier League, only 4 points behind a Europa League Spot. Indeed, Ighalo has been selected by 34% of Barclays Fantasy Premier League Teams, a massive 1,270,943 players.
Meanwhile back in the real world, an undeterred Evans and the boys have been working on a plan to counter Watford’s potent striking force. And just as Middlesbrough learned on Monday, Leeds United intend to give them a game.
The last time I was at Vicarage Road it was not to see Elton John but it was to witness the Mighty Whites (‘ahem’) smash Watford 1-0 back in 2010. It was also a game we were not expected to win. I have my ticket and will be there Saturday to drink some of that magic from the Cup, and it will be interesting to see what changes have been made since their Italian owner, Gino Pozzo, took charge.
Pozzo, who is the son of Udinese Owner, Giampaolo Pozzo, has on his books none other than Nicola Salerno as "Sporting Executive." It’s a shame Salerno couldn’t have been more sporting whilst at Elland Road. Another name that Pozzo has on his books, looking after Sports Rehabilitation, is Moto Watanabe, an exile from Tokyo. Watanabe learned his trade looking after injured Sumo wrestlers, and he may need to call on all his experience during the visit of Big Steve.
Previous FA Cup Honors
-Runners-up: 1965, 1970, 1973
- Winners: Never.
- Runners-up: 1984
Watford's last five consist of 1 defeat, 1 draw, and 3 wins. They've scored 5 and conceded 4.
Leeds United has 1 defeat, 2 draws, and 2 win in their last five, having scored 4 and conceded 3.
From 11 games at Vicarage Road, the Hornets have taken the spoils 4 times, Leeds has won 4 times, and there have been 3 draws.
Leeds United Players to Watch
Toumani Diagouraga was arguably Man of the Match v Middlesbrough on Monday and was on the scoresheet away at Bolton in the fourth round of the FA Cup. He won't be alone in hoping he finds the net again on Saturday.
Gaetano Berardi has been training well but may be lacking in match fitness. He is, however, another great defensive option for Evans should he be healthy enough to play in this one.
Watford FC Players to Watch
Hopefully, former Brazilian international goal keeper Heurelho Gomes has a busy afternoon. The 35-year-old is enjoying a renaissance at Watford this season, but all good things must come to an end and I have my fingers crossed he has a mare.
Hornets manager Sanchez-Flores has made no secret of the fact he wants to reach the FA Cup Final and will be putting out a strong side. I want to see an entertaining game, but I'm hoping that leading goal scorer and Nigerian international Ighalo is rested. He has scored 37 times in 57 appearances for Watford. He may need a rest, right?
Watford FC v. Leeds United
FA Cup 5th Round
Vicarage Road, Watford
BBC Radio, Fox Sports 2 Go, Fox Deportes
Saturday, February 20, 2016
7:00am PT / 10:00am ET / 3:00pm BT
Silvestri, Taylor, Bamba, Bellusci, Wootton, Bridcutt, Cook, Diagouraga, Dallas, Doukara, Antenucci
Subs: Peacock-Farrell, Coyle, Adeyemi, Murphy, Mowatt, Botaka, Erwin
Pantilimon, Paredes, Britos, Cathcart, Holebas, Capoue, Suarez, Watson, Abdi, Deeney, Amrabat
Subs: Gomes, Nyom, Prodl, Behrami, Guedioura, Anya, Ighalo
A hopeful 1-1 and a return to Elland Road.
What do you expect? Think we got it right? Or are you a little less/more hopeful? Will Troy Deeney or Odion Ighalo cause more trouble up top for our back four? Will Souleymane Doukara score a hundred goals? Let us know in the comments, and thanks for reading. #MOT