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Premier League Preview: Watford vs. Arsenal

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  • Arsenal has won eight of 10 matches since Wenger took over
  • Hornets were victorious in January meeting
  • Troy Deeney hasn’t scored in 13 consecutive PL fixtures
  • Gunners have failed to score in first three road matches

Watford will host Arsenal on Saturday from Vicarage Road (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) as the Hornets look to end the Gunners’ seven-match unbeaten run.

[ PREVIEW: Liverpool meets Manchester United in gigantic clash ]

The Hornets are coming off of back-to-back positive results and currently sit eighth in the Premier League as one of the early surprises of the season. Despite allowing the third-most goals in England’s top flight, Watford is unbeaten in six of its first seven fixtures.

Marco Silva‘s side will be looking for a breakout performance from striker Troy Deeney, who has failed to score in his last 13 PL matches, which marks the longest drought of his Watford career.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE AT 10 A.M. ET SATURDAY

Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger may be forced to shuffle his squad around if things don’t go his way in the lead up to kick off. Sead Kolasinac, Laurent Koscielny and Alexis Sanchez are all players that could miss out on the fixture, while Shkodran Mustafi is out for several weeks.

What they’re saying

Wenger speaking on defensive concerns due to injuries“Yes, I have. I think about sorting out the problem, but overall I will completely decide what I do tomorrow because Koscielny will have a test then. He worked quite hard physically, he looks like he is capable of playing if he survives the test. If he has no pain on his Achilles tendon, he can play. I will decide that tomorrow.”

Cleverley on not playing afraid against Arsenal: “The mentality is changing here. We won’t go out there feeling inferior or like we have to change our game. We want to be on the ball and creating chances, as well as keeping it tight and not being silly. I feel like we’re evolving into having that mentality of being a top-half team.”

Prediction

Watford has shown signs of improvement thus far, outside of the 6-0 drubbing the club suffered at the hands of Manchester City a few weeks back. However, their opponent on Saturday is in fantastic form, and despite several possible setbacks in the Gunners lineup, Wenger’s group should still emerge victorious. Arsenal 2-0.

Newcastle linked with targets as Benitez begins transfer quest

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Newcastle United’s players have canceled their Christmas party, as manager Rafa Benitez admits he’s working on January gifts for the St. James’ Park set.

The Magpies have one point from their last eight matches, and face Arsenal, West Ham, and Manchester City in the run-up to the New Year, closing off a run of five matches in 16 days with Brighton and Stoke.

[ PL PREVIEW: Man City vs. Spurs ]

Benitez says he’s begun talks with managing director Lee Charnley about the January window. The team is expected to make moves whether Mike Ashley completes a reported sale of the team or not. From Sky Sports:

“At this time it is just to talk about ideas,” he said. “You might say ‘I would like to sign this player’ and someone will say ‘£40m’ – maybe it is not realistic.

“The main thing, we had this conversation, then we have to move forward quickly. I don’t know the details but at least we were talking about that. We have to progress and it is so obvious that we have to improve things.”

Newcastle has been linked with a number of notable names a few weeks from the start of the January market, including Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, prolific Besiktas striker Cenk Tosun, as well as Liverpool’s Danny Ings and Manchester United’s Luke Shaw.

Premier League Preview: Leicester City vs. Crystal Palace

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  • Leicester leads all-time 26W-18D-23L
  • Foxes 3W-1D vs. Eagles since Oct. 2015
  • Palace won at Leicester in Feb. 2015

The Claude Puel revolution at Leicester City has the Foxes surging up the Premier League table, and Saturday’s visitors from Crystal Palace are making moves of their own (Watch live Saturday at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Leicester has won four-straight matches, the latest a 4-1 beatdown of Southampton at St. Mary’s, and returns to King Power Stadium with a chance to make a dent on the five-point deficit between the Foxes and the Top Four.

 

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After beginning the season 0-7, Crystal Palace has claimed 14 of 30 points to move from 20th to 18th on the table. Roy Hodgson’s men have two wins and four draws in their last six matches.

What they’re saying

Leicester’s Harry Maguire on the task at hand:

Palace’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek on his high-flying loan spell from Chelsea: “It’s what you aspire to be when you’re younger. Right now it’s a case of trying to improve as much as I can and to keep the performances up. As long as I’m enjoying it I think I’ll do well, so I’m really happy. The experience of playing week in week out and the physical side of things, getting my body used to playing games – sometimes three in a week – has been a massive thing for me, especially when I haven’t played for two years regularly. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to get away from Chelsea, to play regular football, get my body used to it, get more robust and I think once you have that then it’s a platform to play better.”

Prediction

This could be a fun one, with names like Zaha, Townsend, Loftus-Cheek, Vardy, Mahrez, and Gray ready to bless the match with pace and creativity. Goals have come in bunches when Leicester’s on the pitch, and we’ll call it 2-1 to the Foxes.

RBNY’s Grella heads to Columbus (through Colorado)

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Mike Grella didn’t get to pick No. 20 of the MLS Re-Entry Draft, but that didn’t stop Columbus from getting their hands on the New York Red Bulls veteran.

Colorado selected Grella with the third overall pick, then sent him to Columbus for a second round pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft.

[ MLS: Ousted “blacklisted” by MLS? ]

The only other pick was made by Minnesota United, who took Tyrone Mears from Atlanta United.

Grella, 30, is a well-traveled Duke product who has played in England and Denmark. He scored 18 times with 13 assists in 89 matches for the Red Bulls, but missed most of the 2017 season with a pair of knee injuries.

It’s a good gamble for the Crew, and an extra draft pick for 2019. Second-round picks have become long odds to make MLS rosters, with Tommy McNamara and Aaron Long the last impact players to come out of the round. That was in 2014, and both needed changes of scenery before hitting their MLS strides.

John Cena makes entertaining Premier League predictions

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We do not recommend putting any money on John Cena’s Premier League predictions for this weekend.

The actor and WWE star was the guest picker on the BBC site on Friday, and admitted his soccer knowledge doesn’t extend much further than Cristiano Ronaldo and a tour of Tottenham (he has a fondness for Spurs, it seems).

[ PL PREVIEW: Chelsea vs. Southampton ]

But his actual selections are quite amusing. From picking matches based on species to trying to anger his fiancee’s Arsenal supporting brother, Cena brought the goods.

Our favorites:

Why West Ham will win at Stoke: “Who doesn’t love a good ham? It provides you with nourishment, happiness and a sense of community. It is always served at a big family function gathering. I like West Ham. 0-1.”

Why Southampton will win at Chelsea: “From where I am from, in Massachusetts, Southampton is a pretty cool place, so I am going to have to pick them, only because of how it relates to the States.”