First Team 05/04/2019

Gracia: “We Know We Can Beat Them Again”

Watch Javi Gracia's pre-match press conference above, or read on below.

By Kevin Affleck

There are plenty of seminal moments in the season. 

There was Troy Deeney knocking over Davinson Sánchez against Spurs; José Holebas out-sprinting Richarlison after giving the Brazilian a head start, and then Gerard Deulofeu racing back to catch up James McArthur in the FA Cup quarter-final and defending like a tough-tackling full-back.

But, on a team front, the win at Wolves in October put a real marker down. It provided the perfect response to the going-over the team got at home to Bournemouth, showed the win at Burnley was no flash in the pan, and came against a side who had won four Premier League games on the spin. It was a real statement.

“It was a very important game for us, playing away and the way we did it,” said Gracia. “We dominated the game, with control of possession. We scored on counter-attacks but we dominated possession. It was a very good moment. We were getting good results away and this gave us confidence to keep going and to have the confidence in the way we were playing and the way we were working.”

The result knocked the stuffing out of Wolves. They lost five of the next six and Nuno Espirito Santo has since changed things up, bolstering his midfield by bringing in Leander Dendoncker, partnering him with Rúben Neves at the base of the midfield and playing João Moutinho further forward.

“Then they were playing with other players and even in another shape,” said Gracia. “They have changed some things in the team, but we did it one time and we can do it again. We know we can beat anyone, and we can lose to anyone. Both teams are playing well, getting points and we are both enjoying a good season. I think it’s a good moment for both teams. We both have good squads, are good teams, and I think it will be a good game. It’s a moment to show what we are able to do. We have to be ready to give 100 per cent.”

Gracia will be leaving no stone unturned in his preparation. When in charge of Ruben Kazan, he lost to Ural Yekaterinburg in the semi-final of the Russian Cup in April 2017 and he does not want to experience that sinking feeling again.

“It’s worse to lose a quarter-final and in rounds before that,” he said. “We have the chance to go to a final at Wembley with our supporters and it is many years since we did it. We have to enjoy it. The end is not important. What is important is to enjoy the semi-final as you never know when you are going to play another one. It will be my best achievement if we reach the final.”

Important information for supporters travelling to Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

First Team 04/04/2019

FA Cup Team News: Wolverhampton Wanderers

Watch Javi Gracia's pre-match press conference above, or read on below.

By Kevin Affleck

Javi Gracia is confident Roberto Pereyra will be fit to take his place in the Watford side for the FA Cup semi-final with Wolves at Wembley on Sunday.

The Argentine schemer was taken off as a precaution at half-time against Fulham on Tuesday night and he has not trained since. However, the Head Coach has not given up hope that the 28-year-old, who scored that wondrous goal at Molineux in October, will win the race to be fit and take his place on the left-hand side of midfield.

“In this moment, we have Tom Cleverley, Isaac Success, Adalberto Peñaranda and Roberto Pereyra not training with the team,” said Gracia. “They [Pereyra and Success] will train tomorrow and we will see. They are doubts. Pereyra felt some pain but I think he can be ready for the next game. Cleverley is out and I don’t know how much time [he will need]. In the next days it is not possible for him to play.”

Femenía played further forward after Gracia's half-time changes against Fulham

The 28-year-old has scored seven goals this season and been a real source of creativity, most notably at West Ham where he won the penalty and then deliciously set-up the second for Gerard Deulofeu. 

“Roberto Pereyra is an important player for us,” said Gracia. “I think he will be ready for the next game. If he is not available I have other players ready, waiting for the chance to play.”

Whether Foster replaces Gomes for the first time in the FA Cup this season will be a bone of contention

Gracia has at least three decisions to make when it comes to selection: one about who plays at right-back, secondly who partners Troy Deeney in attack, and thirdly who plays in goal. Heurelho Gomes has played in every round, conceding just one goal but Ben Foster has been in imperious form this season.

“I don’t know the worst keeper of the three,” said Gracia. “I don’t say who is going to play but, you know, it is not a problem to choose the goalkeeper because we have three good goalkeepers. All of three of the goalkeepers are playing well.”

Gray is pushing for a start after a series of match-winning substitute appearances

Andre Gray is pushing hard for a start. In fact, he’s knocking on the door so loudly it’s almost coming off its hinges. He has won the last four home games after coming off the bench and got a cracker in the fourth-round cup win at Newcastle.

“He is not only a good substitute – he has showed many times this season that he can start in the first XI,” said Gracia. “I remember the first four games we won in a row and he played from the beginning. I know he is an option. We’ll decide in the next day the best XI, but I’m always asked about changes and what players I will put in the first XI. I just always try to choose the best XI and this game is no different.”

Important information for supporters travelling to Wembley Stadium on Sunday.