Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Cup Clash Will Have Hornets Buzzing, Claims United Boss; RAFA EXPECTS WATFORD TO FIELD A STRONG SIDE IN FOURTH-ROUND TIE

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Cup Clash Will Have Hornets Buzzing, Claims United Boss; RAFA EXPECTS WATFORD TO FIELD A STRONG SIDE IN FOURTH-ROUND TIE

Article excerpt

Byline: LEE RYDER Chief Newcastle writer lee.ryder@reachplc.com @lee_ryder

RAFA Benitez is expecting Javi Gracia to name a strong side for the FA Cup clash at St James' Park this afternoon.

Gracia made 11 changes in the last round against Woking but, with the Hornets now potentially just one win away from Premier League safety, Benitez feels there is a stronger interest from the Vicarage Road club in the famous old competition now.

When asked if he was expecting to face a patched-up Watford side, Benitez told the Chronicle: "No I don't think so.

"They are in the middle of the table so they can make more risks.

"I think they will make changes, how many? "I don't think it will be 11 this time."

Newcastle could be one of a handful of Premier League sides left in the competition if they progress to round five - with four topflight sides at least set to exit the competition this weekend.

With a smile, Benitez insisted he was not getting carried away but - with the potential of an EFL side standing in the way of a quarter-final place - the Spanish boss reflected: "In the FA Cup it becomes more exciting every round you go through.

"You get closer and closer and start thinking 'maybe, maybe.'.

"So we have to approach this one thinking we can do OK, then see what happens in the draw."

There has certainly been a mood swing at the training ground in recent times and going through to the last 16 would only enhance that.

Benitez added: "We are happier because you want to be scoring goals.

"It is not just that, it is having a clean sheet against teams close to you in the Premier League. The key is always balance.

"You have to be strong at the back and creative going forward.

"If you have that you are stronger as a team.

"If you are too open and you concede, even when you are scoring I don't see that as a positive. …

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