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Premier League Power Rankings, Vol. VII: Watch out for Watford

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Week 17 of the Premier League season is upon us, as teams get ready for the final match before Christmas.

In what has been a wildly unpredictable season, just six points separate fifth place (Tottenham) and thirteenth place (West Brom).

[ MORE: Mourinho’s final interview ]

After this weekend, every team will be in action on Boxing Day before finishing up 2015 with one final match before the New Year, which officially marks the halfway point of the season.

TEAM RANKING Up/Down
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Leicester City: The Foxes stay top after a 2-1 win over Chelsea. While Jamie Vardy‘s record scoring streak may have ended, Riyad Mahrez continues to impress as one of the best players in the league. A tough trip to Everton awaits on Saturday.
source: 2 Arsenal: A win is a win, even if it was over lowly Aston Villa. Olivier Giroud continues to score, with six goals in his last six matches for the Gunners. HUGE match against Manchester City on Monday.
source: 3 UP 1 Manchester City: It took 90+ minutes, but City took all three points against struggling Swansea. A win at Arsenal on Monday could be the match you look back at if City wins a trophy in the spring.
source: 4 UP 4 Crystal Palace: The Eagles got their first-ever PL win over Southampton last weekend as Pardew’s men sit in position for a place in Europe. A very exciting team to watch, Palace may just challenge for a top-four spot.
source: 5 UP 2 Watford: Three wins on the spin have the Hornets all the way up to seventh on the table. Odion Ighalo has scored in three straight matches and has 10 goals on the season as Watford has flown under the radar.
source: 6 Stoke City: Despite being branded as the new, sexy Stoke, the Potters are still grinding out hard-nosed results, conceding just 2 goals in their last 7 matches in all comps. They’ll have to stay strong with a visit from Palace this weekend.
source: 7 DOWN 2 Tottenham: Spurs’ unbeaten streak in the PL was snapped at 14 matches after falling to Newcastle at White Hart Lane. A trip to struggling Southampton could get them back on track.
 

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8 DOWN 5 Liverpool: After losing to Newcastle, Liverpool was nearly beaten at home by West Brom if not for Divock Origi‘s 96th minute equalizer. Klopp’s men need a result against a red-hot Watford side if they want to stay in the top half of the table.
source: 9 UP 3 Bournemouth: Up the Cherries! Consecutive wins over Chelsea and Man United have Eddie Howe‘s men riding the highest of highs. If they can make it three in a row against West Brom on Saturday, the South Coast will explode.
source: 10 UP 5 West Brom: A good draw at Liverpool, but Tony Pulis will be upset his side didn’t take all three points. The Baggies are unbeaten in four and are an extremely frustrating side to play against.
source: 11 DOWN 2 Everton: A disappointing draw against Norwich in which the Toffees really should have put the match away early. A clash against leaders Leicester won’t do them any favors, although Romelu Lukaku has scored in seven straight.
source: 12 DOWN 2 Manchester United: After losing to Bournemouth, United are winless in their last five in all comps. The criticism on Louis Van Gaal is at an all-time high, and anything but a win at home over Norwich this weekend will be unacceptable.
source: 13 UP 3 Newcastle: Would you look at that, consecutive wins over Liverpool and Spurs have the Magpies out of the relegation zone. Steve McClaren‘s side has some newfound life, and will fancy their chances to continue trending upwards with a match at home against Villa on Saturday.
source: 14 DOWN 3 Southampton: Losers of three of their last four in the league, Saints have hit a rough patch. Koeman’s men sit 12th on the table, and could continue to slide with matches against Tottenham and Arsenal on the horizon.
source: 15 DOWN 1 West Ham: The Hammers haven’t won in the league since October, but have managed to get points with four draws from their last five matches. Upcoming tilts against Swansea and Villa could be a good time to get back to winning ways.


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16 UP 2 Norwich City: The Canaries battled back to earn a draw at Everton, and even threatened to take all three points. The performances have been solid, but Norwich needs to find some wins to climb above the relegation zone.
source: 17 DOWN 4 Chelsea: What can you say about Chelsea? Losses to Bournemouth and Leicester have the Blues just one point above the drop, and cost Jose Mourinho his job. You would think the champions should beat Sunderland at home this weekend, but honestly, who knows with this team.

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18 UP 1 Swansea City: In their first match without Garry Monk, Swans were robbed of a point after a late stoppage-time winner for Man City. However, they showed signs of life, and will have to truck on against West Ham this weekend as the club has yet to name a new manager.
source: 19 DOWN 2 Sunderland: After a brief stay in safety, the Black Cats are back in the relegation zone. Big Sam needs his boys to dig deep, with matches against Chelsea, Man City, and Liverpool all before the New Year.
source: 20 Aston Villa: Still six points behind 19th place Sunderland, Villa remains glued to the bottom of the table. The upcoming schedule isn’t the toughest, so Remi Garde will be hoping to somehow find a few results.

Premier League Preview: Man City v. Man United

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  • Man City (3rd) trail Liverpool by 11 points
  • Man United (6th) eight points out of 4th
  • Last meeting: Man United 0-2 Man City

For the first time in recent memory, Manchester City and Manchester United each find themselves failing to meet expectations — by their own respective standards, at least — as they prepare to meet at the Etihad Stadium in the 179th Manchester derby on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

Man City, the two-time defending Premier League champions, are looking increasingly unlikely to retain their crown for a third straight season but look a surefire bet to finish in the top-four, which is a place for which Man United would bite your hand off as they currently trail leaders Liverpool by more points (22) than they have points of their own (21).

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

The struggles for United have been all about consistency as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side hasn’t won back-to-back games all season. The Red Devils haven’t won two in a row in the PL since March. On the bright side, United turned in one of their complete performances of the season on Wednesday, spoiling Jose Mourinho’s return to Old Trafford and beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1. Marcus Rashford scored both goals and Solskjaer couldn’t rave enough about his 22-year-old forward after the game. From start to finish, United were the better team and looked in majority control, which isn’t something they’ve been able to say often in 2019.

As for City, they’ve simply been “not good enough” without ever actually being “bad” this season, given Liverpool’s scintillating form (14W-1D-0L thus far). Realistically, City likely need to pick up all 69 remaining points this season, and even then they might still come up short.

Injuries/suspensions

Man City: OUT – Sergio Aguero (thigh), Aymeric Laporte (knee), Leroy Sane (knee), Oleksandr Zinchenko (knee)

Man United: OUT – Anthony Martial (hamstring), Eric Bailly (knee), Marcos Rojo (undisclosed); QUESTIONABLE: Paul Pogba (ankle), Nemanja Matic (groin), Diogo Dalot (groin)


Projected lineups

Man City: Ederson — Walker, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Angeliño — Rodri, De Bruyne, Silva — Bernardo, Jesus, Sterling

Man United: De Gea — Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Young — Fred, McTominay, James, Mata, Lingard — Rashford


What they’re saying

Pep Guardiola, on the derby: “It’s Man United. I respect what they’ve done for English football, European, and world football. United have huge history and their quality is always there but we must try to beat them. We play against a good team, try to follow the performances we’ve put in and try to win the game. You know my opinion on the title race.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, on his derby memories: “It took many years before I played a Manchester derby myself. Of course, Man City are a better team now than when I was playing. … Confidence is a strange thing in football; you can get performances and results like Wednesday night and it boosts it so much. And I know our boys will be up for it. 24 hours less recovery time [than City] shouldn’t matter, you go on adrenaline.”


Prediction

The win over Tottenham was impressive, no doubt about it, but City remain a challenge of an entirely different class, no matter what their points total says. If the title is well and truly gone for Guardiola’s side, then retaining superiority in Manchester will have to suffice. City 3-1 United.

Klinsmann gets first point as Hertha Berlin manager

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) Jurgen Klinsmann claimed his first point since returning to coaching as his Hertha Berlin team let slip a two-goal lead to draw with Frankfurt 2-2 in the Bundesliga on Friday.

[ MORE: Chelsea transfer ban reduced; can sign players in January ]

Hertha was clinging to a 2-1 lead in the 86th minute when Sebastian Rode hammered the ball in from a corner for Frankfurt to deny the Berlin team the win.

Hertha is in the relegation playoff spot in 16th and winless in its last six league games, while Frankfurt is 10th.

Dodi Lukebakio gave Hertha the lead with a shot through Frederik Ronnow’s legs. That goal was assisted by Marko Grujic, who later made it 2-0 with a header from a free kick.

However, Frankfurt almost immediately replied with a header of its own from Martin Hinteregger, the Austrian defender with five Bundesliga goals.

[ MORE: Brendan Rodgers signs new contract at Leicester ]

Frankfurt’s fans expressed their disapproval of the video assistant referee after it ruled out two goals for the hosts. There was a rare disallowed own goal when Hertha goalkeeper Thomas Kraft palmed a cross into his own net but was found to have been pushed while jumping.

Klinsmann took over Hertha last week on a temporary deal until the end of the season, after Ante Covic was fired with the team under threat of relegation. Klinsmann hadn’t coached since being fired in 2016 by the United States, and last worked at a club in 2009 at Bayern Munich.

Nigel Pearson appointed new Watford manager

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Nigel Pearson has been appointed new manager of Watford and been handed a very straightforward — but tall — task for the remainder of the season: avoid relegation from the Premier League.

[ MORE: Chelsea transfer ban reduced; can sign players in January ]

Pearson takes over from Quique Sanchez Flores — who only took over from Javi Gracia in September — who left his post at Vicarage Road with the Hornets sitting 20th out of 20 teams in the PL table, already seven points adrift from safety. Pearson’s contract runs through the end of the season.

The 56-year-old Pearson, who last managed in the PL with Leicester City in 2015, was most recently in charge of Belgian side OH Leuven before he was fired in February.

[ MORE: Brendan Rodgers signs new contract at Leicester ]

Pearson won’t take charge of Saturday’s game against Crystal Palace (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold). Interim manager Hayden Mullins will see out the week’s preparations and manage the team before handing the reins to Pearson on Sunday.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks

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Matchweek 16 is here in the Premier League as things are heating up very nicely ahead of the festive season.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

While you can download the NBC Sports Predictor app (below) and play the Premier League Pick ‘Em game yourself to predict the scores and win the prizes.

DOWNLOAD NBC SPORTS PREDICTOR

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Tottenham 3-0 Burnley – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Bournemouth 1-3 Liverpool – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM] 

West Ham 3-1 Arsenal – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Newcastle 1-1 Southampton – (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

Man City 2-2 Man United – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

Watford 1-2 Crystal Palace – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Everton 2-1 Chelsea – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Aston Villa 2-2 Leicester City – (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Brighton 2-1 Wolves – (Sunday 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Norwich 2-0 Sheffield United – (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM