The Big Match Tactical View: Watford v Wolves

Javi Gracia
Which goalkeeper will Javi Gracia leave on the bench?

The second FA Cup semi-final is a meeting between two sides enjoying a fine Premier League season - which of them can secure a place in the FA Cup final? Michael Cox and Alan Thompson preview the action.

"This could be a fascinating battle between two strike partnerships at either end of the pitch"

Watford v Wolves
Sunday 16:00, BT Sport 2
Match Odds: Watford 3.211/5, Wolves 2.68/5, The Draw 3.412/5

At the start of the campaign, an FA Cup final between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Watford wouldn't have felt particularly appealing. But after a campaign where both have punched above their weight, and sit in 7th and 8th in the Premier League respectively - essentially the best of the rest - this is an intriguing semi-final between two sides who have played some great football this season.

Two upfront for both sides

Tactically, both sides have an obvious identity. Javi Gracia's Watford use a 4-4-2 system that could be considered something of a 4-2-2-2 with the wide players drifting inside, while forward Gerard Deolofeu makes dangerous runs into the channels, playing just off a big centre-forward, Troy Deeney.

Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo started the campaign with a 3-4-3 system but the side has looked more compact after a shift to 3-5-2. They also use that type of strike partnership - Raul Jimenez has impressed with his movement towards the ball, with Diogo Jota continually running in behind. This could be a fascinating duel between two strike partnerships at either end; Wolves, of course, have the spare defender at the back, in Conor Coady.

Foster to return?

Another feature of the sides is the fact both managers have an established starting XI, and have tried to prevent unnecessary changes to the side when possible. For Watford, the major talking point is in goal, where Heurelho Gomes has acted as the side's cup goalkeeper, but might be dropped here with Ben Foster returning. It would be harsh on the popular Brazilian, but Foster has enjoyed a superb campaign, and it would be a shame not to deploy him on such a huge occasion.

There's a slight question mark at right-back, where both Daryl Janmaat and Kiko Femenia have been used, but the latter may continue after his midweek goal against Fulham. Adrian Mariappa made a mistake for Ryan Babel's goal in that game but should continue alongside Craig Catchart, while on the left Jose Holebas will engage in an interesting battle with Matt Doherty, a meeting between two of the league's most productive full-backs this season.

Abdoulaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue will play in midfield, with Capoue holding the fort and Doucoure surging forward into attack more regularly. Both Will Hughes and Roberto Pereyra will surge forward diagonally into dangerous positions in support of the front two. Deulofeu is always a threat, but might struggle to find space in behind a deep Wolves defence, so Troy Deeney could be more dangerous, especially if and when Watford's full-backs overlap and cross.

Wolves likely to hold the advantage in midfield

Wolves also have employed a designated cup goalkeeper this season, with John Ruddy likely to continue ahead of Rui Patricio, who hasn't been in good form recently. Coady will play as the spare man behind Willy Boly and Ryan Bennett, who has been booked three times in his last four matches and might be scared by Deulofeu's speed.

The three-man central midfield will be comprised of Joao Moutinho's invention, Ruben Neves' ball-winning, diagonal passes and long shots, and Leandro Dendoncker's occasional bursts into attack. This is the area where Wolves have the numerical advantage, and Dendoncker's running into attack could be key. Doherty will continue on the right flank, and offers a serious goalscoring threat, while Jonny Otto should return in place of Ruben Vinagre.

Jimenez and Jota have an excellent relationship upfront, and their clever one-twos might cause Watford serious problems - Kabasele and Cathcart haven't always played the offside trap well in recent weeks, and Jota's bursts could be dangerous.

I just about fancy Wolves here. Their numerical advantage in the centre could be crucial, and I think they defend the box well enough to cope with Watford pressure and crosses. The runs of Dendoncker, and the speed of Jota, means Jimenez's hold-up play could be crucial. I think Watford will dominate, but Wolves will win, and I'll back the latter to win a tight game 1-0, at 8.615/2.

The Betfair Trader's View - Alan Thompson

There won't be much between these two sides in this enthralling FA Cup semi-final.

Wolves have had a superb season and Nuno Espirito’s men have already proved, that on their day, they are a match for anyone. With victories over Manchester City and Liverpool, as well as drawing with Chelsea and beating Manchester United twice recently. However, they are also capable of throwing in a bad one as they have shown recently on the road against Huddersfield and Burnley, where they lost and failed to score in either game.

Watford have won six of their last nine games in all competitions. Their three defeats were away at Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City, so there is certainly no disgrace in that and they only failed to score at Anfield during that sequence of games. In fact, Watford have only failed to score in three of their last 22 matches.

This could be a cracker of a game and I fully expect to see some goals at both ends. If you don’t mind backing at slightly odds-on, then the 1.910/11 available for Both Teams to Score looks a good bet to me. But, I also think this could go further than the scheduled 90 minutes. The draw is priced at 3.3512/5 but rather than take that, I would prefer to enhance that price by taking on the 0-0 and higher scoring draws by dutch backing the correct scores 1-1 @ 76/1 and 2-2 @ 1817/1 giving approximate odds of 5.04/1.

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