Gracia prepared to keep faith with Gomes for FA Cup semi-final

Watford manager Javi Gracia is preparing to remain loyal to Heurelho Gomes for their FA Cup semi-final against Wolves.

The 38-year-old goalkeeper, who has confirmed he expects to leave at the end of the season, has been a consistent figure for Watford in the competition from which first-choice Ben Foster has been rested.

With Foster’s impressive form so crucial to Watford’s fine results in the Premier League and the club potentially only 90 minutes from the final, the pragmatic approach for Gracia against Wolves would be to include him at Gomes’ expense.

The last time Watford reached the semi-finals was in 2015, and when they lost to Crystal Palace with Costel Pantilimon starting over Gomes when Quique Sanchez Flores used a similar selection policy.

In Saturday’s quarter-final victory over Palace, Gomes was the only exception to an otherwise full-strength team that demonstrated Gracia was prioritising progress, and when asked about his dilemma the Spaniard said: “I will take my decision like I’ve done so far.

“It doesn’t change for me because it will be the semi-final or the final — because I trust all my players and I will decide what is best for the team.

“Ben Foster is the first player to congratulate Heurelho. We have a good attitude in the team and this is helping us to achieve all our objectives.

“I take it day-by-day and be as fair as possible with all my players.”

Defender Adrian Mariappa is relishing the prospect of the Wembley fixture, scheduled for April 6, having played in the 2016 final for Palace when they lost to Manchester United in extra-time.

“It was a great occasion,” he said. “But Watford is my hometown club, and anytime I put on the shirt for Watford is a great honour, so obviously playing in the FA Cup has been brilliant for me.

“(Gomes) is an exemplary professional, day-to-day in training, he’s unbelievable. We’ve got some really good goalkeepers, and it shows how well Ben Foster has been playing, keeping him out of the team.

“I’m glad picking who of him or Gomes is the gaffer’s decision.

“We’re fully confident that we can beat anyone this season.”

Palace’s James McArthur also played in that 2016 final, and he revealed his ‘devastation’ at their elimination when they had hoped to reach this season’s final.

“It’s pretty devastating,” said the midfielder. “I can’t really put it into words that we’ve come so close. It’s really disappointing.

“We’ve had a good run in the cup and let ourselves down but it’s in the Premier League we need to pick ourselves up and try and get going again.”

Palace are 14th in the Premier League, five points clear of the relegation zone heading into the international break.

“We need to take a break now and try and concentrate on the league, start winning football matches and pushing up the table,” added McArthur, who conceded the absence of the injured Wilfried Zaha was a major blow against Watford.

“He’s obviously a massive miss. He’s one of the best players in the team; take your best players out of the team and you’re going to miss them.

“If we’d seen their best players aren’t playing you’d obviously get that boost.”

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