March 16, 2016

Perhaps a monumental victory in FA Cup play will provide Watford some much-needed momentum to turn around things in the Premier League.

The Hornets can avoid going winless in four straight league matches Saturday by doing the double over visiting Stoke City.

Since winning four consecutive top-division matches from Nov. 28-Dec. 20, Watford (10-7-12) have taken just nine points from their last 12 matches (2-3-7) and been shut out in three straight games and five of the last six. However, Sunday's 2-1 shock result at Arsenal in the FA Cup quarterfinals might go down as one of the biggest triumphs in team history and serve as a springboard to more success over all competitions the rest of the way.

"We try to enjoy this moment, this team, this journey," manager Quique Sanchez Flores said. "I think this is the most important moment of my career."

That's a serious comment coming from a guy who won La Liga as a player with Real Madrid and the Europa League with Atletico Madrid.

But before Watford set their sights on that semifinal against Crystal Palace at Wembley Stadium next month, the immediate focus is to get back on track in the league. That can usually be a tough sell when a team is thriving in tournament competition, but the Hornets still have plenty of time to devote to their top-flight competition.

The Hornets are 14th in the table with 37 points, 12 clear of relegation, but they've resembled a team stuck in the drop. Watford have not registered a league goal since Troy Deeney completed his brace in the 82nd minute of a 2-1 victory at Palace on Feb. 13.

Watford were thrilled with the number of fans who traveled to Emirates to provide support last weekend, and hope they'll be just as passionate Saturday.

"We want them to come out again in numbers against Stoke and cheer us to victory," said forward Odion Ighalo, who scored Sunday's first goal in the 50th minute.

Ighalo assisted on both goals, including one from Deeney, in their 2-0 victory over Stoke City at Britannia Stadium on Oct. 24 in the teams' first Premier League meeting.

Six points and five spots ahead of Watford, Stoke (12-7-11) followed a three-match winning streak spanning Feb. 13-March 2 with a 1-all draw at Chelsea and last Saturday's frustrating 2-1 home loss to a Southampton side that finished with 10 men.

The Potters fell behind after Graziano Pelle scored twice in the first half-hour, countering only with Marko Arnautovic's goal on 52 minutes. They've yielded the first goal in two straight games after recording the initial strike in each of the previous three.

"I have spoken until I am blue in the face about the importance of scoring the first goal," manager Mark Hughes told Stoke's official website. "When you concede a second then it is really an uphill task for us.

"Unfortunately that has happened on too many occasions this season, especially at home, so we have got to work at that and make sure we cut it out moving forward."

Arnautovic has a team-leading 10 goals but last Saturday's was only his third in his last nine Premier League fixtures.

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