Premier League preview: Watford vs. Chelsea

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  • Reigning PL champions Chelsea currently 14th (28 points)
  • Newly promoted Watford 10th (32)
  • First meeting (on Boxing Day): Chelsea 2-2 Watford
  • Chelsea unbeaten in 7 PL games since firing Mourinho

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Watford will be in search of their first victory over Chelsea this century, having last defeated the reigning Premier League champions in PL play on Sept. 18, 1999 (nine meetings – all competitions) when they welcome to the Blues to Vicarage Road on Wednesday (Watch live at 2 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

The story of the season, however, is not Watford’s stellar run through the first half of the PL campaign, but of course the trials and tribulations of Wednesday’s opponent. The post-Jose Mourinho era has seen a restored sense of direction at Chelsea, who are unbeaten in seven Premier League games since his dismissal in mid-December, though the Blues have climbed just two places in the league table in that time, thanks to four draws and just two wins under interim manager Guus Hiddink. One massive positive for Chelsea: in his five PL appearances since Mourinho’s departure, Diego Costa has scored five times, nearly doubling his output of three goals in 14 games under Mourinho.

[ MORE: Transfer grades — How did each PL club fare in January? ]

Watford, on the other hand, have seen their first season back in the PL take place in reverse of Chelsea’s. After eight wins in 17 games to start the season, the Hornets sat 7th in the PL table on Christmas Day. Since the busy festive period, it’s been just one win and one draw in six league games for Quique Sanchez Flores’ bunch. The lone victory came 11 days ago in a 2-1 victory over Newcastle United. Not coincidentally, Odion Ighalo‘s furious goalscoring ways have tapered off during the recent lull in Watford’s season; the Nigerian has scored just two league goals since the 2-2 draw with Chelsea on Boxing Day (12 goals in 17 games to that point).

On the injury front, everything looks great for Watford, who should have a full squad available for selection. As for Chelsea, it’s mostly good news as well: only Willian (foot), who will undergo a late fitness test, and Loic Remy (calf) are doubts for Tuesday’s clash.

What they’re saying

Watford striker Troy Deeney: “Of course we will take confidence from the fact that we got a draw at Stamford Bridge, but I think you have to remember that this is a different Chelsea team now and they’re obviously playing with more confidence. … We’ve had some good days against the so-called big teams, like against Liverpool for example, and we know we’ve got to be very disciplined and very street-smart to get anything from the game.”

Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink: “My first experience in England was the FA Cup game against Watford in 2009. It was an easy game for Chelsea and we won with 60 percent effort, nowadays it’s impossible to think like that. It’s grown a lot and the gap between the top clubs and the bottom clubs hasn’t vanished but it’s reduced.”

Prediction

At some point, the ship will be set in the right direction for Chelsea. A month ago, everyone would have been piling on and taking the red-hot Hornets, but their recent form might just be an indicator they’ve been found out to an extent. For the first time in forever, there’s little or no pressure on Chelsea, which could make them an absolute terror during the upcoming run-in to the season. Watford 1-2 Chelsea.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks

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There are only two teams with perfect records through the opening two weeks of the new Premier League season, as there continues to be plenty of surprises.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ]

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

Bournemouth 1-3 Man City – (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Man United 3-1 Crystal Palace – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Tottenham 3-0 Newcastle – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM] 

Brighton 1-1 Southampton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

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

Sheffield United 1-2 Leicester City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM


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

 

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

Aston Villa 2-1 Everton – (Friday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Wolves 1-2 Burnley – (Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

Live, Europa League: Wolves, Celtic, Rangers all in action

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The UEFA Europa League playoff round has arrived and it is crunch time for three British teams hoping to reach the group stage of the competition.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores  ]

Wolverhampton Wanderers have negotiated the second and third qualifying rounds to reach this stage, as the Premier League side have made light work of Crusaders and Pyunik but Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men now have a really tough challenge. They play Serie A side Torino in Turin on Thursday in the first leg, and after Wolves drew against Man United on Monday they’ve had little time to rest.

Scottish giants Glasgow Celtic and Rangers are also in action, with Neil Lennon’s Celtic disappointed to crash out of the Champions League in the qualifying rounds as they now have to dust themselves off and get past Swedish side AIK.

Steven Gerrard and Rangers have had to battle through three rounds of qualifying to get to this stage and they head to Legia Warsaw knowing they will be up against it. The Polish giants finished second in their top-flight last season and Rangers will be relying heavily on top goalscorer Alfredo Morales to come up with the goods once again.

Feyenoord host Hapoel Beer-Sheva, Daniel Sturridge‘s Trabzonspor head to AEK Athens and Northern Irish side Linfield host Qarabag in some of the other intriguing clashes, as the first legs are set to be tight and tense with group stage qualification on the line.

Click on the link above to follow all of the action live, while below is the schedule for the Europa League playoff games on Thursday. We will have you covered on Wolves’ European adventure here on Pro Soccer Talk with reaction and analysis.


Thursday’s Europa League playoff round first legs

Astana 3-0 BATE Borisov
Avan Academy v. Dudelange — 11 a.m. ET
FK Suduva v. Ferencvaros — 1 p.m. ET
Malmo v. Bnei Yehuda — 1 p.m. ET
Feyenoord v. Hapoel Beer-Sheva — 1:30 p.m. ET
Ludogorets v. Maribor — 1:30 p.m. ET
Copenhagen v. Riga — 1:45 p.m. ET

AEK Athens v. Trabzonspor — 2 p.m. ET
Legia Warsaw v. Rangers — 2 p.m. ET
FCSB v. Vitoria — 2:30 p.m. ET
Gent v. Rijeka — 2:30 p.m. ET
PSV Eindhoven v. Apollon Limassol — 2:30 p.m. ET
Strasbourg v. Eintracht Frankfurt — 2:30 p.m. ET
AZ Alkmaar v. Antwerp — 2:30 p.m. ET
Celtic v. AIK — 2:45 p.m. ET
Linfield v. Qarabag — 2:45 p.m. ET
Braga v. Spartak Moscow — 2:45 p.m. ET
Espanyol v. Zorya — 3 p.m. ET
Torino v. Wolves — 3 p.m. ET
Partizan v. Molde — 3 p.m. ET
Slovan Bratislava v. PAOK — 3 p.m. ET

Premier League TV, streaming schedule

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Matchweek 3 of the 2019-20 Premier League season is here, with a massive encounter at Anfield headlining the games and a chance for the new boys to cause some upsets.

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The full TV schedule for the games this weekend are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today, Sky Sports News, NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” for all the goals as they go in around the grounds. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.

[ MORE: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Friday
3 p.m. ET: Aston Villa v. Everton – NBCSN [STREAM]

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: Norwich v. Chelsea – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Man United v. Crystal Palace – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Brighton v. Southampton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Sheffield United v. Leicester – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Watford v. West Ham – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET: Liverpool v. Arsenal – NBC [STREAM]

Sunday
9 a.m. ET: Bournemouth v. Man City – NBCSN [STREAM]
11:30 a.m. ET: Tottenham v. Newcastle – NBCSN [STREAM]
11:30 a.m. ET: Wolves v. Burnley – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

How will Liverpool, Arsenal line up?

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The big game of the weekend is at Anfield as Liverpool host Arsenal on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) as the Premier League’s only teams who remain perfect collide.

[ MORE: Biggest surprise PL players

Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool have beaten Norwich and Southampton to start the season, while Unai Emery‘s Arsenal beat Newcastle and Burnley but both have had some defensive issues to deal with early in the campaign.

If previous battles between these two giants are anything to go by (see the video above for more on that) we are in for a real treat on Saturday.

Here’s a look at our projected lineups for both teams, with some analysis on why we think Klopp and Emery will start off this way.


Liverpool

—– Adrian —–

—- Alexander-Arnold —- Matip —- Van Dijk —- Robertson —-

—- Henderson —- Fabinho —- Wijnaldum —- 

—- Mane —- Firmino —- Salah —-


Arsenal

—– Leno —–

—- Maitland-Niles —- Sokratis —- Luiz —- Monreal —-

—– Guendouzi —– Torreira —–

—– Ceballos —–

—- Pepe —- Lacazette —- Aubameyang —-


Analysis

Adrian will continue in goal for Liverpool with Alisson out injured and after his howler against Saints last week, plus several other shaky moments and a wonderful save to deny Maya Yoshida, you just don’t know what you’re going to get from the Spanish goalkeeper. Arsenal will look to press him high early and often. Liverpool’s back four should revert back to what it looked like for most of last season with Joel Matip alongside Virgil Van Dijk at center back, with Joe Gomez missing out. In midfield it wouldn’t be surprising if Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain started but in big games against top six rivals, Klopp has gone a little more conservative over the past 12 months and it is likely Wijnaldum, Henderson and Fabinho will start with Milner coming off the bench as needed. Up top, the famed trio of Salah, Mane and Firmino will look to rip the Gunners apart just like they did at Anfield last season.

Arsenal’s back four is a work in progress, with Monreal and Kolasinac fighting for the left back spot, while Holding is back in training but not yet fit enough to battle with Sokratis and David Luiz for a starting spot. Maitland-Niles is playing well at right back but Hector Bellerin will soon return to give Emery yet another option. Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock both started against Burnley last week but the youngsters could be replaced in the lineup. Lucas Torreira will add extra bite in midfield, while Nicolas Pepe looks ready to make his first start out wide but he could come off the bench in favor of playing Nelson who is more defensive minded. Dani Ceballos will look to build on his early promise in an Arsenal shirt, while Mesut Ozil and Granit Xhaka are both fit again but this game may come too soon for them to feature.