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Preview: Watford v. Arsenal

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Watford host Arsenal at Vicarage Road on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), with both teams pushing hard for European qualification.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

The Hornets are still flying high after reaching the FA Cup final last weekend, as Javi Gracia‘s men will play Manchester City at Wembley on May 18 after their stunning semifinal comeback against Wolves. They are also in a great position to finish seventh and qualify for the Europa League, as Everton, Leicester and Wolves all lost at the weekend.

Unai Emery‘s Arsenal lost at Everton last time out, but they followed that up with an impressive defeat of Napoli in the UEFA Europa League quarterfinal first leg and the Gunners are very much in the hunt to finish in the top four.

In team news Watford are without Jose Holebas, Domingos Quina and Tom Cleverley who are all injured, while Arsenal’s Sokratis is serving the first of a two-game suspension after picking up 10 yellow cards and Granit Xhaka is struggling with a groin injury.


What they’re saying…

Javi Gracia on Watford focusing on Europe: “Our final is against Arsenal – not in May. This is the mentality we will keep and then at the end we will see the position and the points. But in this moment, our final is on Monday. My feeling is that the players are really focused on the next game. In this moment, I prefer to keep the same attitude we had during all the season, trying to give importance to the next game.”

Unai Emery on Gracia, Watford: “I know Javi Gracia and above all his teams are very organized with a big commitment to helping each other. They are very difficult teams to battle because defensively they are very strong and this is now at Watford. They are a very organized team, with a big capacity offensively because they create a good movement and a good idea, a good style to take that. I want to play matches against Javi Gracia and Watford because I think they are doing a big season.”


Prediction

This is a big week for Arsenal with the second leg of their Europa League quarterfinal at Napoli on Thursday, then they host Crystal Palace on Sunday. Emery will rotate his squad and Watford will be high on confidence after they reached the FA Cup final for just the second time in club history. I’m calling this a draw. 1-1.

Premier League player Power Rankings

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After another busy midweek, the latest batch of Premier League player Power Rankings are here.

[ MORE: Full Power Rankings archive ]

Players from Liverpool, Man City, Tottenham, Wolves, Watford and Everton dominate our list, as those teams are in fine form right now.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t getting in this list!

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


  1. Bernardo Silva (Man City) – New entry
  2. Raheem Sterling (Man City) – Up 4
  3. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – Up 8
  4. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) – Up 8
  5. Idrissa Gueye (Everton) – New entry
  6. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – Down 4
  7. Richarlison (Everton) – New entry
  8. Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) – Down 5
  9. Christian Eriksen (Tottenham) – New entry
  10. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – Down 2
  11. Ayoze Perez (Newcastle) – New entry
  12. Gerard Deulofeu (Watford) – New entry
  13. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) – New entry
  14. Chris Wood (Burnley) – Down 4
  15. Ruben Neves (Wolves) – New entry
  16. Raul Jimenez (Wolves) – Down 1
  17. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – Down 10
  18. Jamie Vardy (Leicester) – New entry
  19. Ben Foster (Watford) – New entry
  20. Heung-Min Son (Tottenham) – Down 11

Real Madrid confident of signing Pogba, Hazard

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Two of the Premier League’s biggest stars could be heading out this summer, with Real Madrid increasingly confident of signing both Eden Hazard and Paul Pogba.

[ MORE: Has Pogba delivered at United?

With Chelsea star Hazard only having one year left on his contract, it seems he is far more likely to leave, but Pogba’s recent displays and comments after Zinedine Zidane’s return to Real Madrid have certainly set tongues wagging about his future.

Our partners at Sky Sports are reporting that Real are confident that both Pogba and Hazard will arrive at the Santiago Bernabeu this summer. It has been reported that Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, has cancelled a meeting between United and Pogba about signing a new contract (Pogba has two years left on his current deal) and is keen for his client to head to Real this summer.

Asked about the recent speculation regarding Pogba ahead of United’s clash with Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reaffirmed his belief that Pogba will remain at United.

But Solskjaer doesn’t seem as sure as he was a few weeks ago when talking about this topic…

“You can’t guarantee anything in football but yes I think Paul is going to be here,” Solskjaer said. “I can assure you he is now very determined to succeed at Man United. I would say yes I can guarantee, but in life you can never. He will be as far as I can answer.”

Which player would be the bigger loss for their respective club?

Hazard, no question. He has scored 16 goals and added 13 assists this season in the Premier League, meaning he has had a hand in just under 50 percent of Chelsea’s goals. With a transfer ban hanging over Chelsea, they won’t be able to replace him either, meaning more pressure will be placed on the likes of newcomer Christian Pulisic and youngsters Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek to deliver.

The Belgian star has spent the past seven seasons at Chelsea and many of their fans, although reluctant, will accept it if he tells the club he wants to leave this summer.

As for Pogba at United, even though he’s scored 13 goals in his best-ever return in a PL season and was the only non-Liverpool and Man City player named to the PFA Team of the Year on Thursday, it is tough to say United would be totally lost without him.

If United do want to cash in on Pogba, the time is now. With two years left on his contract, they could probably recoup a large chunk of the $120 million they paid Juventus to sign the midfielder in 2016. Pogba’s influence in the dressing room is huge, with the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard close friends, and the way his dip in form has coincided with United losing seven of their last nine outings under Solskjaer is worrying.

With Zidane undertaking a huge rebuild of Real’s squad which failed so miserably in all competitions this season, it would be a huge shock if at least one of Pogba or Hazard aren’t lining up at the Bernabeu next season. Selling the likes of Gareth Bale could enable Real to spend big, while reports of Neymar also heading to the Spanish capital also continue. In the prime of their careers, Hazard and Pogba seem like prime targets for Zizou to kickstart his rebuild this summer.

Emiliano Sala’s father dies three months after plane crash

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The father of Emiliano Sala, Horacio, has died suddenly in Argentina.

It has been reported that Horacio, 58, suffered a heart attack and died before paramedics arrived at the Sala family home in Progreso, Argentina.

The mayor of Progreso, Julio Muller, confirmed to radio station La Red that Horacio Sala had passed away and that a ‘heart issue’ was the cause.

“The partner of Horacio called me at five in the morning. The doctors were already there. When he left his home, he had already died,” Muller said. “He could never get over Emi’s death.”

This terrible news for the Sala family comes just over three months since Emiliano tragically died in a plane crash in the English Channel. The Argentine striker was flying back from Nantes to his new home of Cardiff, just two days after completing a club-record $19 million transfer to the Premier League side.

An investigation into why the small aircraft flying Sala crashed continues, as his body has been recovered from the English Channel but pilot David Ibbotson, the only other person on board, has never been found.

Cardiff City and Nantes are currently in discussions with legal teams and FIFA over the payment of the transfer fee and other funds that were due to Sala, and now his family, after his big move to the PL in January.

Clubs push for promotion-relegation in European competitions

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LONDON (AP) The head of the European Club Association says the existing Champions League format should be overhauled to introduce promotion and relegation.

ECA chairman Andrea Agnelli, who runs Juventus, wrote in a letter to the organization’s 232 clubs that “European matches with higher sporting quality and a more competitive environment at all levels” are desired.

That points to more games between elite clubs in a formatted Champions League after 2024 rather than less attractive games that can feature in the group stage.

Agnelli wrote “a pyramidal Pan European League System with continuity and opportunity to grow from within enhancement of mobility and dynamism across the system through carefully applied promotion and relegation.”

While stressing that entry to competitions should be on “sporting meritocracy, not historical privilege,” Agnelli says European competitions should be “open to all – keeping the dream alive.”

Agnelli has told his members to boycott a meeting being staged by the European Leagues group in Madrid on May 6-7.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports