Friday 23 March 2018

Yannick Bolasie, Joe Ledley, Scott Dann and Joel Ward boost for Palace semi

Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew has a near fully-fit squad for Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Watford
Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew has a near fully-fit squad for Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Watford

Alan Pardew has revealed Yannick Bolasie, Joe Ledley, Scott Dann and Joel Ward are fit to start Crystal Palace's FA Cup semi-final with Watford but has criticised the Football Association for giving his team so little time to prepare.

The crucial quartet return after missing Wednesday's 2-0 Premier League defeat at Manchester United, but for all of his optimism surrounding the condition of his first-team squad and their chances in Sunday's fixture, Pardew is unhappy on the demands placed on them.

Both Palace and Watford faced league fixtures on Wednesday in the knowledge that Sunday's match at Wembley could define their season, and at a time when it is feared the cup's stature is in decline, the manager believes it has not been treated with respect.

"Everybody is fit," said the manager. "Other than (Marouane) Chamakh, (Brede) Hangeland and Paddy McCarthy we're all there.

"(But) The FA need to look at this, because we all had to play (Wednesday) because of the European rule that we can't play on European nights. I think the Premier League get fined for that and that's something they perhaps need to re-negotiate, because it really impacts on those weeks where there's no European football.

"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, since the play-off final.

"Both myself and (Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores) probably haven't had enough preparation with the team.

"That's probably what we would have liked, to have a week's run-in to it, preparing our teams, and go through all the detail, and of course we can't do that, so that's a little bit unfortunate.

"(But) in terms of the energy levels of the players, they'll be fine. We'll both be fresh."

James McArthur on Wednesday appeared as a 66th-minute substitute having returned from an ankle ligaments injury it had been feared would end his season in February.

"No other player at this club would have come back from that injury in his time," said Pardew, 54. "He's got himself a real good chance of being on the bench. He won't start.

"(Palace and Watford are) well-matched teams, similar teams. I think, when we're in full flow, we have the edge on them, and that's what we've got to try and achieve.

"But the front two (Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo) can do such damage that they can make up for any deficiency they have defensively. It's going to be a tight game."

Asked of the visit to Wembley Stadium, where Palace last appeared when defeating Watford in extra-time of the 2013 play-off final to earn promotion to the Premier League, Pardew added: "I'm a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to the cup, I'd prefer just the final to be at Wembley if I'm honest.

"But I'm not sure our fans would - particularly for Palace and Watford it's an easy journey - but the likes of (fellow semi-finalists) Everton, Manchester United it's not so favourable."

Press Association

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