Watford will prepare for their FA Cup third-round tie against Tranmere as if it was the next match in their battle for Premier League survival, according to assistant head coach Craig Shakespeare.
The Hornets will get a break from the scrap to climb out of the relegation zone when they tackle Rovers, who are struggling at the wrong end of the Sky Bet League One table.
Since Nigel Pearson’s arrival to replace Quique Sanchez Flores in early December, Watford have lost just one of six Premier League matches – away to leaders Liverpool.
A haul of 10 points from four games has now very much boosted hopes of retaining their top-flight status, only two points adrift of 17th place.
Shakespeare confirmed Watford will make several changes, both to rest some players and also offer others a chance to impress with much-needed game time.
Whatever team Pearson sends out, though, it will not be one which underestimates the challenge ahead of them.
“We’ll make sure that they are focused and that they know as players that we are not taking Tranmere lightly,” Shakespeare said.
“We will go through the same preparation as we have done in the previous games and the same analysis – they will be ready.”
Javier Gracia guided Watford to the FA Cup final last season against Manchester City, only to be thrashed 6-0.
Shakespeare insists there will be no suggestions of disrespecting the competition.
“It is a great, great competition, one we want to go as far in as we can. We aim to go through to the next round,” the former Leicester boss said.
“We do hold the FA Cup in high esteem and we want to try and progress.
“It just gives players who have been a bit frustrated the chance to get some minutes under their belt.”
Shakespeare added at a press conference: “We have seen in history there has been a lot of FA Cup upsets and we don’t aim to be one of those.
“Tranmere will see it as a break from the league, so we don’t take them lightly.”
Christian Kabasele will start a two-match ban after the club’s appeal against his red card against Wolves, upgraded after a VAR review, was unsuccessful.
Adrian Mariappa is available again after suspension and he could be needed as Kiko Femenia picked up a hamstring problem during the game on New Year’s Day.
Forward Danny Welbeck continues rehabilitation from his own hamstring injury and is now training outside.
“He’s more or less one to one (with a member of the strength and conditioning staff), not joining in with the full squad yet,” Shakespeare said. “We haven’t got a (return) date.”
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