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Preview and Prediction: 4 Premier League sides meet in FA Cup semifinals

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Four Premier League sides are all that remain in the FA Cup as the semifinals get under way Saturday and Sunday.

Manchester City meets Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday, with Watford v. Wolverhampton to contest the second meeting a day later. The winners of both matches will meet in the final at Wembley Stadium on May 18.

The first match up features Pep Guardiola looking to keep his side in the running for the unprecedented quadruple. In addition to the FA Cup still in play, City has already won the League Cup, trail Premier League leaders Liverpool by two points with a game in hand, and begin Champions League quarterfinals against Tottenham midweek.

For Brighton, the Seagulls have been to one Cup final in the club’s history, back in 1983 when they reached the FA Cup final, losing to Manchester United at Wembley. They fell 2-0 to Manchester City in this season’s only meeting so far, way back in late September in the midst of Man City’s incredible start to the season.

To make matters even more daunting for Brighton, they will have to contend with a near-fully fit Manchester City squad. Other than long-term injuries to Claudio Bravo and Benjamin Mendy, the only injuries for City is a knock to Fabian Delph and a new hamstring injury for Olkesandr Zinchenko. Sergio Aguero is back from his slight knock, but might not start the match.

Prediction: While Brighton is a much different side from when these two teams met back in September, Manchester City is not. They are still as dominant as ever, and the healthy squad has enough players to rotate through the four competitions and still maintain its edge. City wins 3-0.

On Sunday, Watford meets Wolverhampton Wanderers for the second time this season, with the first meeting also back in the fall. Watford won 2-0 in a game that began Wolves’ ugly six-game slide. Wolves will head to Vicarage Road a very different team than on that October day, fighting for a Europa League position and having stunned Manchester United twice over the last few weeks.

Starting Sunday, these two teams will be seeing enough of each other over the final few weeks of the campaign. While they still have a Premier League fixture remaining as well, they’re both battling hard for a Europa League position, separated by just a single point in the table. Winning the FA Cup would go a long way towards easing that burden, but should neither make it, the battle to the finish line will be bitter, and this meeting could be the warm up for that game on April 27 back here at Vicarage Road yet again.

Wolves brings a squad with them that won’t be phased by the bright lights, with the internationally experienced Joao Moutinho and Rui Patricio leading the way along with stars Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota who have Champions League games under their belts. They also have a completely clean bill of health, a valuable asset heading into a pressure-filled run-in to the season. Watford will be without Tom Cleverley due to a hamstring injury, while Roberto Pereyra is a game-time decision after coming off against Fulham.

It’s been a while for both these clubs, with Watford last reaching Wembley in this competition in 1984, their only time having done so. Wolves last made an FA Cup final 1960, and they’ve lost four in a row at this stage.

Prediction: This is a fascinating matchup between two equally talented teams. Wolves has the experience advantage, but Watford is at home. This one goes to penalties after a 1-1 draw, and Wolves keeps its cool and comes out on top in the shootout.

Capoue volley puts Watford into FA Cup quarterfinals

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The 2018/19 FA Cup has its first quarterfinal team in the form of Watford after Etienne Capoue scored a bouncing volley on the stroke of halftime to top Queens Park Rangers 1-0.

Both sides proved wasteful as the 18 total combined shots produced just two on target, but that was all Watford needed to move on in London.

QPR led the corner count with five to Watford’s three, but the Hornets used the set-pieces to earn its goal in first-half stoppage time. Taking a short corner to work the ball onto the left foot of Tom Cleverley, the looping ball into the box found Massimo Luongo, and while his shot struck a teammate, it rebounded right to Capoue standing laterally from the original shot, and he leg-whipped the ball to produce a bouncer that wrong-footed Joe Lumley and found the far corner.

The hosts probably should have been level as regulation wound down, but Toni Leistner’s sliding effort to meet a cross by Darnell Furlong somehow went wide.

Watford’s spot in the quarterfinals is just their fourth appearance this deep in the FA Cup since a three-year stretch from 1985 to 1988 where they made it all three times. However, since 1988, all three appearances in the quarterfinals have seen the Hornets progress to the semis, including in 2016 when they topped Arsenal.

Watford, Burnley scrap to scoreless draw

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  • Burnley has late goal called offside
  • Clarets three clear of 18th
  • Watford 7th with 33 points

Kurt Vonnegut famously wrote that “Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.”

Watford and Burnley flipped that on its ear with plenty of pain and an absence of beauty in a 0-0 draw at Vicarage Road on Saturday.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but this first anecdote does make a fine claim in Vonnegut’s favor.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Watford’s Jose Holebas threw the ball to Tom Cleverley, who passed it back to Holebas. The Greek international than thumped a volley into Cleverley’s stomach.

The hosts were lively from the opening kick, with Troy Deeney and Ken Sema nearly working a ball over the line in the first quarter hour.

Dwight McNeil hit a second half chance to make it 1-0 over the frame, and hit a shot that Chris Wood put home late but was judged to be offside.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]  

Watford comes back to win at Crystal Palace (video)

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  • Cathcart own goal puts Palace ahead
  • Redemption for Cathcart makes it 1-1
  • Substitute Cleverley with rare goal to win it

Craig Cathcart scored for both sides, including an equalizer for his Hornets, as Watford beat Crystal Palace 2-1 at Selhurst Park on Saturday.

Tom Cleverley scored Watford’s other goal as Javi Gracia‘s men used the comeback to climb into seventh with 32 points.

Palace stays in 14th place with 22 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Watford hit consecutive posts in consecutive seconds through Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra, and will be wishing they did the same in their own end.

Palace went ahead of a wild goal mouth scramble that finished with Abdoulaye Doucoure smashing the ball off Craig Cathcart and into his own goal.

The Eagles could’ve gone ahead 2-0 when Luka Milivojevic‘s shot through traffic was blocked by the hand of a Watford man and was caught by Ben Foster, but no call arrived at Selhurst Park.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]  

Cathcart will have been pleased to reverse his o.g., even if he knew little about the first. This one had plenty of intent, a header over Wayne Hennessey with a little more than 20 minutes to play.

If you had Cleverley as your match-winner, well, that was an odd wager. He scored his second goal in the last two and a half seasons, the substitute potting a loose ball.

Palace fought hard for an equalizer, but Watford kept its spacing and managed a number of interventions in its own box.

Deeney on wild draw: ‘Sunday League’ defending, poor officiating

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Troy Deeney spoke frankly after Watford’s intense 3-3 draw with Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Wednesday.

[ RECAP: Bournemouth 3-3 Watford ]

“The defending from both teams was Sunday League at best to be honest,” Deeney said after scoring twice in the first half, which included all six goals.

Five of those came in 13 minutes.

“I didn’t feel we were fully in control,” he said. “It was an end-to-end game. It could have been 6-6.”

And Deeney had some more stiff words about the officials in a match where he admitted one of his teammates could’ve been sent off.

“Abdoulaye Doucoure probably did get lucky [to not be sent-off]. But you can’t tell me that their boy did not try to do Tom Cleverley. They know it. We know but the referee bottled it on a few occasions today.”

The fine is a-comin’ for that, but it underscores one of the storylines in a thriller; What a match by the Hornets and Cherries!