Roy Hodgson accepts there is “no love lost” between Crystal Palace and Watford as they compete for a place in the FA Cup semi-finals.
Saturday’s fixture at Vicarage Road represents the latest of significance between the clubs, potentially furthering a rivalry that has steadily grown since the Championship play-off final in 2013.
Since Palace’s victory that day they have also beaten Watford in the 2016 FA Cup semi-finals and had feisty league fixtures that have featured the latter’s mascot Harry the Hornet taunting Wilfried Zaha by diving, and Etienne Capoue escaping a red card for a nasty challenge on the same player.
Most recently Troy Deeney revealed that he and his team-mates had “taken it in turns” to target Zaha, and ahead of their cup quarter-final Eagles boss Hodgson said: “It’s an important rivalry. There’s no love lost between the two sets of fans, and of course the teams are in pretty much the same ballpark.
“Particularly last year, where we got above them at the end (of the league season); this year they’re above us, but we’re in the ballpark, everyone would agree with that.
“It’s not that far away, south-east London to north London; that is if you’re not one of these people who refuse to have Watford in London, and think it’s in Hertfordshire, but I’m not one of those. I still regard them as a London club.
“I’m afraid every football match throws up those kind of situations.
“Troy Deeney is absolutely water under the bridge, as far as I’m concerned, and has no effect whatsoever.
“In actual fact, whenever I see Deeney we always have a very cordial exchange.”
After the 2-1 defeat at Vicarage Road in August — Watford also won by the same scoreline at Selhurst Park in January — Hodgson said that Zaha’s performance had been affected by the early challenge from Capoue, from which he was perhaps fortunate to escape without injury.
He is expected to start on Saturday having scored five goals in his past six appearances, and Hodgson said: “Forwards in particular get patches, don’t they? They get purple patches. He’s in one at the moment.
“It’s good that Wilf is in that sort of form, and long may it continue, certainly for the rest of this season. We’re going to need it, because he’s such an important person for us.
“But it would be unfair for us to say that it’s only now that he’s taken seriously the idea that he’s going to convert these chances and score goals. He’s been doing that all along.”