London - Quique Sanchez Flores will ignore mounting
speculation about his future as the under-fire Watford manager tries to save
his job with a victory over Crystal Palace in the FA Cup semi-finals on Sunday.
Flores' team are looking to reach their first FA Cup final
for 32 years, but reports that Watford's owners are unhappy with their poor
recent form threaten to cast a shadow over the big day at Wembley.
Despite securing Premier League survival and enjoying a fine
Cup run, Flores' hold on his position suddenly appears tenuous after just three
league wins in 2016.
Hornets owner Gino Pozzo is not averse to changing managers,
with former Atletico Madrid boss Flores his fifth appointment in the space of
12 months when he was hired last year to replace Slavisa Jokanovic, who had led
Watford to promotion from the Championship.
But the 51-year-old Spaniard insists he has tuned out the
rumours to focus on how to beat Palace and set up a final clash against Everton
or Manchester United, who meet in the other semi-final on Saturday.
"This is the time to talk about Watford, to talk about
Watford fans and how important this match is for this club," Flores said.
"It is not the time to talk about me. I can just
transmit to the Watford fans that I am completely focused and happy.
"I have an amazing family, amazing kids, I am happy
with my profession and I am completely happy with Watford fans.
"This conversation is about this match and Crystal
Palace. The only thing I am worried about is this match."
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Flores' fall from grace is surprising after he was widely
praised in the first half of the season for quickly establishing Watford as a
competitive force in their first season back in the top flight.
- 'No fears' -
While publicly he remains confident, he is surely aware his
job security could rest on winning Watford's first FA Cup semi-final since
2007, so it was no surprise Flores rested Ben Watson, Etienne Capoue, Odion
Ighalo and Troy Deeney for a 3-1 defeat at West Ham in midweek.
"I always work until the last moment," Flores
added. "I am not the type of person who thinks about what will happen in
the future, I am always living in the present.
"Now what I know is that it is one month until the end
of the season and I want to enjoy it. Not to be afraid of anything. No fears. I
want to try to enjoy it."
Watford have lost four of their five previous FA Cup
semi-finals, with their only victory coming against Plymouth in 1984 in the
golden era of boss Graham Taylor and pop star owner Elton John.
Palace are back at this stage for the first time since 1995
and will be encouraged by the presence on the bench of their manager Alan
Pardew, who famously scored the winner when they shocked Liverpool in the 1990
semi-final to reach their only FA Cup final.
The south Londoners also have recent Wembley success against
Watford to encourage them after a 1-0 win in the 2013 Championship play-off
final, but their woeful league form in 2016 is far more significant.
Palace are still not completely safe from relegation after a
2-0 loss at Manchester United in midweek left them with only one win from their
last 18 league games.
And Pardew acknowledges the preparation for Wembley has
hardly been ideal.
"We're squeezing games in; the run we've had, this is
our fourth game in 12 days. That's a tough run, when you've got a semi-final,
the biggest game in this club's history for a while," Pardew said.
"It's going to be a tight game. We are two well-matched
"When we're in full flow we have the edge on them. But
their front two (Deeney and Ighalo) can do such damage they can make up for any
deficiency they have defensively."For
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