April 07, 2016

Everton and Watford could end up playing each other for the FA Cup title, but first both must halt their current Premier League misery.

The Toffees can avoid extending their season-high league skid to four games by sending the Hornets to a fifth consecutive top-division defeat Saturday at Vicarage Road.

With both sides awaiting semifinal FA Cup matches later this month at Wembley Stadium, all hope for a pleasant season isn't lost. Everton (9-11-10) will face the winner of next Wednesday's Manchester United-West Ham United quarterfinal replay April 23, with Watford to meet Crystal Palace the next day. A championship in that tournament - and the Europa League berth that comes with the trophy - for either club would certainly make up for their poor showings in Premier League play.

Everton are 12th in the table with 38 points, one more than 14th-place Watford (10-7-14). An FA cup title for the Toffees might also be enough to take the heat off embattled manager Roberto Martinez. In danger of being shut out in three straight league matches for the first time since a four-game drought in April 2006, Everton are trying to bounce back from Sunday's frustrating 1-0 loss at Old Trafford.

"We have got the players and have got the work-rate," defender John Stones told Everton's official website. "We've showed it this season that we can do it, so we need to look in the right direction."

While Stones tried to put positive spin on Everton's Premier League trials, veteran teammate Leighton Baines reportedly feels there is a lack of chemistry on a roster that continues to underachieve despite the presence of 25-goal scorer Romelu Lukaku and a rising star in Stones.

"Going forward we should be confident that we can bring this (defensive) performance to the table week in and week out, then go out to express ourselves and score goals," Stones said.

Lukaku, who has scored 18 times in league play, recorded Everton's two most recent goals in the 2-0 home victory over Chelsea in the FA Cup quarterfinals March 12. He assisted on Arouna Kone's equaliser in the 86th minute of a 2-all draw against Watford at Goodison Park to open the season.

The Hornets' lone victory in their last five overall matches was their 2-1 upset at Arsenal on March 13 to book their appearance at Wembley. However, the Gunners handed them a fourth straight league defeat with last Saturday's 4-0 whipping at the Emirates.

"We didn't play with the necessary impetus and energy and finally we lost," Hornets manager Quique Sanchez Flores told the club's official website.

Watford is 2-3-9 in Premier League play since a four-game winning streak Nov. 28-Dec. 20. They've managed five goals and been blanked eight times in their last 11 top-division matches.

While Everton appear to be saving their best efforts for FA Cup competitions, Sanchez Flores won't allow - at least publicly - his team to go through the motions in Premier League competition.

"If we want to arrive well to the FA Cup, we have to play well in the Premier League," said Sanchez Flores, whose side has scored one goal during an 0-2-2 league home stretch that followed the 2-1 win there over Newcastle United on Jan. 23.

"This is the main objective of our season, so it is necessary to finish well for respect of the fans, the players, the staff and the owner," he added. "I think it is necessary to respect everything in this profession. If you want to finish well it is necessary to come back to the good focus."

Odion Ighalo, who scored against Everton in August, has failed to record any of his team-leading 14 goals in the last eight league matches.

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