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Crystal Palace head to in-form Watford


IT'S third versus fourth this evening as Palace make the short trip around the M25 to face an in-form Watford side just one point ahead of them in the Championship.

And despite the game featuring live on Sky Sports, the Eagles have sold out their away allocation, with many fans looking at snapping up any spare tickets available.

Ian Holloway's men picked up their first victory last Saturday over Charlton Athletic since their 3-1 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on New Year's Day, with Glenn Murray back in the goals to take his tally to 25 in all competitions so far this season.

The Eagles were boosted by the transfer deadline day loan signings of Kevin Phillips and Stephen Dobbie, who both made a big impact after coming on against the Addicks, and they will be pushing for a start at Vicarage Road.

Mile Jedinak is rated 50/50 after a successful operation following a broken eye socket, with Holloway and assistant boss Keith Millen revealing the skipper may have to wear a protective face mask.

If the Australian does miss out, it will give another chance to the likes of Alex Marrow and Stuart O'Keefe to protect the back four, while the other position is likely to go to Jacob Butterfield or Jonathan Williams.

The latter has impressed in recent matches after coming on as a substitute while we are yet to see the best of Butterfield just yet, so it is a nice dilemma for Holloway to have.

But the boss may decide to include Phillips from the start alongside Murray, which means that one of those midfielders will miss out, with Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie starting on both flanks.

The game comes a little too soon for the likes of Joel Ward and Darcy Blake, who are both back in training after injury, but Jazz Richards has impressed in his two games on loan so far.

Jonathan Parr was dropped for the Charlton game, but he will be hoping to return at the expense of Dean Moxey at left-back.

Veteran forward Phillips started his professional career at Watford after being snapped up from non-league outfit Baldock Town back in 1994 and insists it is always nice to go back there to see a few old faces. "I always look forward to going back to Vicarage Road and I always get a warm reception there," he said.

"That's where it all started for me nearly 20 years ago, but it will be a tough match because they're on a good run at the moment and playing some excellent football.

"But I believe I can score goals and the manager knows what I can do."

Good news for Palace is that Watford's red hot striker Matej Vydra will miss the game after being called up to the Czech Republic squad.

The 20-year-old, one of eight players on loan from Italian club Udinese, has been in blistering form lately with seven goals in his last five games to take his season tally to 19.

But he isn't the only one as the Hornets may have up to another eight squad members unavailable due to international commitments.

Daniel Pudil has also been called up to the Czech Republic squad to face Turkey in a friendly, while Joel Ekstrand is with the Sweden squad.

Defender Nyron Nosworthy was called-up by Jamaica, while Republic of Ireland U21 duo Sean Murray and Connor Smith were both called up against the Netherlands on Wednesday night.

Nathaniel Chalobah may take part despite being part of the England U21 squad on Tuesday, while Italian midfielder Cristian Battocchio has also been away on international duty.

However, goalscoring midfielder Almen Abdi, as featured by Advertiser Sport as Watford's dangerman, is expected to start with Troy Deeney and Fernando Forestieri in attack.

And former Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia has brought a wealth of experience at the back and is set to start in between the sticks, with former Palace stopper Fitz Hall in the heart of the defence.

If Palace can grab all three points, they will jump into second in the Championship for a few hours at least, with the likes of Leicester City and Hull City in action tomorrow.

And that's all before another tough game against sixth-placed Middlesbrough next Saturday.

Crystal Palace head to in-form Watford

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