It's two in two for Christian Benteke, who scored Villa's second against Liverpool

Prindi’s Premier League Picks: Cardiff City to upset Tottenham

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Picking Premier League matches is hard work and quite frankly, I’m crap at it. Nevertheless, I enjoy the banter and figure at the very least I can provide you all with some fodder to tear me up with in the comments. So without further ado, let’s get it on.

LOCK IT UP

Norwich City vs. Aston Villa (Sat. 7:45 am ET on NBCSN; Carrow Road)

It’s been three straight losses for Paul Lambert’s side, quite the downfall following their 3-1 triumph over Arsenal during the opening weekend of play. Losing to Chelsea and Liverpool was understandable but dropping points to Newcastle at home last weekend came as a shock to many. Now the Villains must find their way back on track and Carrow Road is one of the more difficult places to make that happen.

The Canaries got run over last weekend by a high-powered Tottenham squad and will see this as a match where they must take points. Vegas has Chris Hughton’s side as favorites to win at 7/5 but this is a match Christian Benteke and Gabby Agbonlahor can’t let slip. Villains snatch their second win of the season.

Liverpool vs. Southampton (Sat. 10:00 am ET on NBCSN; Anfield)

Humbled by Swansea City in Monday’s 2-2 draw, Liverpool returns to the friendly confines of Anfield to face a Southampton team struggling to score goals. The last time these two squads met, the Saints strolled to a 3-1 victory behind goals from Morgan Schneiderlin, Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez. This season, however, goals have been much harder to come by for the Saints, who have hit pay dirt only twice in their first four Premier League matches.

The loss of Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho will hurt the Reds but they’ll need all three points to keep pace with the top of the table. And as 5/9 favorites to win, I think they get it.

Newcastle United vs. Hull City (Sat. 10:00 am ET on NBC Live Extra; St. James’ Park)

Hull City are a side with surprising quality – they work tremendously hard as a group, have a number of talented players and know how to grind out points. But they’re thin. And this weekend Robert Koren is out with a fractured foot while Robbie Brady and Maynor Figueroa are doubtful as they recover from unspecified knocks.

For Newcastle, it’s a golden opportunity to crack the Top 5. As 4/5 favorites to win look for Papiss Cisse to break his duck and for the Magpies to cruise.

West Ham United vs. Everton (Sat. 10:00 am ET on NBC Live Extra; Upton Park)

Everton finally got their first win of the season last weekend with an impressive 1-0 victory over Chelsea. This weekend the Toffees look to make it two straight as they travel to West Ham, a club Everton took all six points from last season.

For West Ham, this is a fixture they’ll be hard pressed to earn a point in given their lack of striking options. With Andy Carroll out injured indefinitely and Modibo Maiga failing to impress, goals won’t come easy for the Hammers. On the defensive side, Sam Allardyce’s side have been solid allowing only one goal but will face a whole new challenge when Romelu Lukaku shows up.

Everton prove why they are 5/4 favorites to win and makes it six points in two matches.

Chelsea vs. Fulham (Sat. 12:30 pm ET on NBC Live Extra; Stamford Bridge)

Chelsea followed up last week’s 1-0 loss to Everton with a frightful 2-1 loss to Basel during mid-week Champions League action. Fortunately for Jose Mourinho’s “beautiful, young eggs,” Fulham should pose little problem for the Blues. Chelsea, as heavy favorites at 2/7, will roll.

Arsenal vs. Stoke City (Sun. 8:30 am ET on CNBC, Emirates)

With three straight league victories and another dominant performance in Europe during mid-week action, Arsenal are arguably the hottest team in the BPL. At 4/11 the Gunners are heavy favorites to take care of business on Sunday but it won’t be so easy as the big boys from Stoke City always pose a challenge.

But a victory here, coupled with a Liverpool draw or loss, would send Arsene Wenger’s side top of the table and that should be all the motivation they need to grab the three points.

SQUEAKY BUM TIME

West Bromwich Albion vs. Sunderland (Sat. 10:00 am ET on NBC Live Extra; The Hawthorns)

Nothing quite like a bottom of the barrel clash to get the juices flowing as 20th place Sunderland trek down to The Hawthorns to face the 19th place Baggies. An injury-time header from Gareth McAuley helped West Brom take a point at Fulham last week and will be a boost to Steve Clarke’s men, as will the presence of playmaker Stephane Sessegnon whose work permit to play for Albion was cleared this week.

A loss for either squad could put their respective manager on the hot seat. This could be a cheeky good barn-burner but one that I think ultimately will end in a share of the points.

Crystal Palace vs. Swansea City (Sun. 8:30 am ET on NBC Live Extra; Selhurst Park)

At full strength, this is a match Crystal Palace would be primed to take. Unfortunately, the loss of Kagisho Dikgacoi (whose middle name, ‘Evidence’, needs to become part of everyday BPL parlance) to suspension for last week’s red card leaves a gaping hole in the Palace midfield.

Swansea, as slight favorites to win at 27/20, will be tired following their trip to Valencia on Thursday but Michael Laudrup should have enough fire-power in rotation to claim all three points.

UPSET WATCH

Cardiff City vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Sun. 11:00 am ET on NBC Live Extra; Cardiff City Stadium)

This weekend’s fixture list doesn’t have a very upset-prone look to it and if one match stands out it’s this one. With their shock win over Manchester City in Matchweek Two, Cardiff City have already proven themselves dark horses and Sunday provides yet another opportunity to nip points from top competition.

Tottenham have plenty of quality, and it appears to be slowly coming together, but Thursday night’s Europa League match will leave them worn enough to be prime for the plucking. At 16/5 the Bluebirds are super long shots, but I think they get a result.

Manchester City vs. Manchester United (Sun. 11:00 am ET on NBCSN, Etihad)

Discussed at length in my Manchester Derby Preview, United will march into the Etihad and even as 12/5 long-shots, get the job done.

Premier League Preview: Arsenal vs. Stoke City

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 02:  Stephen Ireland of Stoke City shoots a volley during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Southampton at the Emirates Stadium on February 2, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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  • Arsenal has won last 14 matches against Stoke
  • Gunners are currently unbeaten in last 13 PL fixtures
  • Stoke has gone unbeaten in eight of last nine matches

Arsenal looks to remain hot on Saturday as the Gunners host Stoke City (10 a.m. ET, NBCSN and streaming via NBC Sports Live) from the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners remain in contention at the summit of the Premier League as Arsene Wenger‘s side sits second behind league leaders Chelsea on 31 points. In addition to Arsenal’s recent success in the PL, the Gunners have progressed to the final 16 in the UEFA Champions League as well, making 2016/17 a potentially strong year for the London side.

Alexis Sanchez continues to lead the way for the Gunners attack, with the Chilean international notching 11 goals so far this season. In his last 25 PL matches for the club, Sanchez has either scored or assisted on as many goals for the Gunners.

[ MORE: Everton heads to Vicarage Road to face Watford ]

Stoke remains without several top pieces in its lineup, including U.S. Men’s National Team defender/midfielder Geoff Cameron and Ryan Shawcross, however, Bruno Martins Indi and Marko Arnautovic are expected to play for the Potters.

The Emirates has not been friendly to Stoke though in recent years, with the Potters only scoring three goals in their last eight visits while conceding on 19 occasions.

What they’re saying

Arsene Wenger on Arsenal’s progression throughout the season: “We have a good team dynamic, we have a very strong team spirit and we have more maturity, definitely. Unfortunately, the teams around us have more as well. You can assess the Premier League as very open and very interesting… December is a very important month and for us even more because we have some big games. Stoke is another challenge for us [to show] that we can reset, refocus and continue our development and take the points.”

Mark Hughes on Stoke’s solid play against PL’s top sides“In the past as a club we’ve struggled to get results at places like Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge but we’ve been able to do that in recent times. This is the only one left standing so it would be great to get it out of the way. Our recent form is good and we’re in good heart so confidence is high, that is huge in football, so we’ll be able to benefit from that. It’s up to us to restrict them to minimal chances and make sure we’re creating chances when going the other way.”

Prediction

The Gunners can make it 14 straight matches unbeaten on Saturday, and while Stoke has done well to start the season, it’s highly likely that Arsenal will continue its winning ways. Alexis Sanchez is a Golden Boot contender in England, while the backline has improved every match for the Gunners. While the club has received its deserved criticisms in the past for faltering at critical junctures of the season, 2016/17 could be the year that Arsene Wenger and co. break through in the PL. Arsenal 3-1 Stoke

Premier League Preview: Watford vs. Everton

WATFORD, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 09:  Jose Holebas (1st R) of Watford scores his team's first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Watford and Everton at Vicarage Road on April 9, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)
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  • Everton are unbeaten in 11 straight matches vs. Watford (all comps)
  • Troy Deeney is one goal shy of 100 in Hornets kit
  • Toffees have won just one of last nine in PL

Watford hosts Everton on Saturday (7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN and streaming via NBC Sports Live) from Vicarage Road as the two clubs look to keep pace in the running with the Premier League’s top six.

The Hornets have lost three of four in the PL and currently sit 11th in the table on 18 points. In that span, Watford has been outscored 11-4, including the team’s brutal 6-1 defeat at Liverpool in early November.

Etienne Capoue leads the way for Watford in the goals department, with five on the season, while Troy Deeney has three of his own and sits just one away from notching his 100th for the club. Defending his been a bit of an issue though for the Hornets — who have conceded 24 in 14 matches — with only four teams allowing more goals this season.

[ MORE: Swansea remain committed to Bob Bradley despite struggles ]

Everton could potentially have to deal without Yannick Bolasie for the remainder of the season after suffering a knee injury, while Seamus Coleman is expected to play after sustaining a head injury a week ago.

The Toffees enter Saturday with just one win out of their last nine, and while one point separates Ronald Koeman‘s side from sixth place Manchester United, a victory is very much needed for the Merseyside club. While Romelu Lukaku continues to carry the load up front for Everton with seven goals thus far, the Toffees rank mid table in terms of goals scored this season (17).

What they’re saying

Walter Mazzarri on importance of upcoming fixtures for Watford: “It’s very important. The next six games will probably decide our future and decide if we are going to be in the Premier League. It will decide in a certain way, if we are going to be up or playing in a different way and struggling more. These games will decide this. We have been unlucky on injuries and have been in a bit of an emergency for a couple of months.”

Ronald Koeman on Everton striker Romelu Lukaku’s form: “You can have a good run of scoring goals and then have a bit of time where you don’t really get big chances to score. The players around him need to create more and he can improve in his movements – it’s a team question to create more chances. But if he gets the chances, we always know he will score goals.”

Prediction

Both sides enter Saturday’s encounter in desperate need of a victory, but Everton’s last time out against Manchester United was a bit more encouraging. It won’t be an easy task to take points at Vicarage, however, I expect the Toffees to come away with something against the struggling Hornets. Watford 2-2 Everton

Strootman has 2-match ban for Rome derby melee lifted

ROME, ITALY - DECEMBER 04:  Kevin Strootman of AS Roma celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Serie A match between SS Lazio and AS Roma at Stadio Olimpico on December 4, 2016 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
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ROME (AP) Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman has had a two-match ban lifted on appeal, clearing him to play key matches against AC Milan and Juventus.

Strootman had been banned for instigating a melee after scoring during Sunday’s Rome derby.

After the goal and an extended celebration, words appeared to be exchanged as Roma’s players walked back onto the field alongside Lazio’s bench.

[ MORE: MLS Cup Final preview ]

Strootman appeared to toss water from a bottle at Lazio’s Danilo Cataldi, who reacted by tugging the neck of Strootman’s shirt as the Netherlands midfielder walked away.

That prompted both benches to get involved.

Cataldi, who had been on the bench, was given a red card while Strootman was shown a yellow.

The two-match ban was decided on Monday, with league officials deciding that Strootman simulated falling to the ground after Cataldi grabbed his shirt.

However, the football federation’s appeals court determined that the simulation could not be proven.

Besides a one-match ban for the red card, Cataldi’s full punishment has not been announced yet.

Roma won the derby 2-0.

The second-place Giallorossi host Milan on Monday and then visit Serie A leader Juventus.

Watford “Behind The Badge” airs third installment; Catch up on Episode 2 here

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Catch up on Watford’s look “Behind The Badge” ahead of Sunday’s third episode of the four-part glimpse into one of the Premier League’s promoted sides.

The Hornets sit 11th, currently 7 points clear of relegation danger, and are giving fans a better idea of what’s been going on at Vicarage Road.

[ MORE: Behind the Badge archive

In an exclusive series, NBC Sports followed around the Hornets in a very similar fashion to HBO’s Hard Knocks which joins the preseason camp of one NFL team each summer.

Below is the schedule for the three remaining episodes on Watford, which you can watch on NBCSN and live online via NBCSports.com in the coming weeks, plus a link to watch episode one in full from last week.


First episode: Watch full episode, here
Second episode: Embedded above
Third episode: Sunday, Dec. 11, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Fourth episode: Sunday, Dec. 18, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN

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