Craig Cathcart

Premier League Preview: Man City v. Watford

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  • Manchester City looking to bounce back after stunning loss to Norwich City
  • Watford enjoyed thrilling comeback draw last weekend v. Arsenal
  • Manchester City have won their last 11 meetings with Watford in all competitions, scoring at least twice in each match and 38 times in total. 
  • This will be the fourth managerial meeting between Pep Guardiola and Sanchez Flores but the first in England. Sanchez Flores won the first match as Atletico Madrid manager in February 2010 against Guardiola’s Barcelona.

Coming off the club’s first Premier League in 19 matches last weekend, Manchester City returns home to the friendly confines of the Etihad Stadium to face a team they’re quite familiar with in Watford. (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

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Man City of course obliterated Watford, 6-0, in the FA Cup final last May, but it’s a new Watford with Quique Sanchez Flores in charge. Watford as well looked the best it had all season in the second half of last Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Arsenal, though that very easily could have just been because Arsenal’s midfield was non-existent in that half.

In any case, it all shapes up to be an exciting match, especially if new Watford signing Ismalia Sarr can get a start and run at Man City’s makeshift backline. Then again, if Raheem Sterling is back to his usual clinical self, it could be a long afternoon again for the Hornets.

Injuries/suspensions

Manchester City: OUT – Aymeric Laporte (knee), John Stones (thigh), Leroy Sane (knee); QUESTIONABLE – Phil Foden (illness)

Watford: OUT – Craig Cathcart (muscle), Isaac Success (groin), Troy Deeney (knee)


Projected lineups

Manchester City: Ederson – Walker, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Zinchenko – Gundogan, Rodri, Silva – Sterling – Aguero, De Bruyne

Watford: Foster – Femenia, Dawson, Kabasele, Holebas – Capoue, Cleverly, Dacoure – Pereyra, Sarr, Deulofeu

What they’re saying

Pep Guardiola, on striker Gabriel Jesus after his goal in mid-week v. Shakhtar Donetsk: “It’s difficult to find anywhere in the world a striker like Gabriel. The number nine for Brazil, his behaviour in training is outstanding and he has to fight with one of the best strikers I have ever seen in my life in Aguero [for a place in the side]. I will not find a player like Gabriel. To sub Sergio you have to have a top player. I am so delighted with the strikers. When Gabriel plays, he does absolutely everything. Like he did in Ukraine, not just for the goal, he fights and plays.”

Quique Sanchez Flores, on last week’s comeback v. Arsenal: “We have good feelings. We need to make sure we don’t go too much about this match as the next one is completely different. It is not a time to talk about how many shots or how many attempts we had. It is time to be realistic. We still need to change the dynamic – this is the first step and then change for the next opponent.”


Prediction

Manchester City will be ultra focused this weekend to get back to winning ways, and even with a makeshift centerback duo, there’s still more than enough attacking firepower to demolish Watford. The Hornets looked better last week after making the coaching change during the international break, but this will be a step back for Watford.

Man City 3-0 Watford

PL Sunday Preview: Bournemouth hosts Everton; Arsenal visits Watford

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The Premier League’s Matchweek 5 is going to keep on giving, with two matches lined up for Sunday.

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Bournemouth v. Everton — 9 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Following a sluggish start, an up-to-speed Everton, powered by Richarlison, Alex Iwobi and Moise Keane, look to continue on the same path, with similar speed. 

In their first league starts, Keane and Iwobi contributed positively in the Toffees’ three-goal performance against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Couple Marco Silva‘s new arrivals with Richarlison and Gyfi Sigurdson, and the side’s current attacking prowess is what the side desperately needed when the season first kicked off. It now seems like Everton’s lucrative investments on their attack is paying dividends.

With Bournemouth’s defensive struggles in mind, things can be worse than a trip to the southern tip of England for Everton.

Despite a win against Aston Villa earlier this season, injury-ravaged Bournemouth are struggling to stay afloat. In their last three league matches, the Cherries have allowed 18 shots on target, seven goals. The attack isn’t compensating for the lack of defensive stability either, scoring four goals in the team’s five competitive matches this season. 

There is a small silver lining for Eddie Howe and Co. ahead of Sunday, though. Midfielder Lewis Cook, 22, is slated to make his Dean Court return, following a lengthy injury.

INJURIES: Bournemouth —  OUT: David Brooks (ankle), Dan Gosling (hip), Charlie Daniels (knee), Arnaut Danjuma (foot), Junior Stanislas (hamstring); QUESTIONABLE: Simon Francis (knee), Lloyd Kelly (ankle) | Everton  — OUT: Jonas Lössl (calf), Jean-Philippe Gbamin (thigh); QUESTIONABLE: None


Watford v. Arsenal — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

For a second time at Vicarage Road, the Quique Sanchez Flores era is on. 

The 54-year-old’s official return to Watford comes after three years away in Spain and in China. This time, though, the stakes are much higher and the room for error is much slimmer. The table says it all.

With only a point to their name after four bouts, the Hornets are quickly morphing into the league’s bottom dwellers. Will the Spaniard be able to overturn a disastrous defense and a lackluster attack that has only produced two goals? Unlike other teams in the league, Watford’s manager has a nearly-healthy team, and is only a few weeks away from regaining captain Troy Deeney from a knee injury.

That said, there is a stack of work to be done, and taking on Arsenal and Manchester City back-to-back is probably not going to help Watford’s frail state.

Coming in, Arsenal aren’t as feeble as their counterparts, but their confidence (and standing on the table) can use some help, following a loss to Liverpool and a draw to Tottenham in their last two league matches.

The Gunners, who in three weeks will play seven matches, will be without Alexandre Lacazette, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang becomes the team’s lone center-forward option with experience. Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney, too, are not expected to dress on Sunday, although manager Unai Emery hinted that their returns are imminent (a defensive boost, in theory).

Given their far-from-ideal situation, improvement is not something Arsenal are going to shy away from on Sunday against a transitioning and vulnerable Watford.

INJURIES: Watford —  OUT: Troy Deeney (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Craig Cathcart (thigh) | Arsenal  — OUT: Hector Bellerín (knee), Kieran Tierney (groin), Alexandre Lacazette (ankle), Konstantinos Mavropanos (groin); QUESTIONABLE: None

Season Review: Burnley, Bournemouth, Newcastle, Crystal Palace, Watford

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After looking over the bottom five finishers in the Premier League this season, we look through the next five teams, a smattering of clubs both happy to avoid the relegation scrap and looking to use this finish as a launching pad for the coming campaign.

[ REVIEW: Huddersfield, Fulham, Cardiff, Brighton, Saints ]

Managers in this group also could find themselves candidates for jobs down the road, and teams like Burnley, Bournemouth, and Watford may end up in a battle to keep one of their most prized possessions. How did these five teams perform this year?

Burnley

Finishing position/points total: 15 / 40pts
High point
: Eight straight unbeaten through January.
Low point
: Sitting 19th in early December with just 2 league wins

Our opinion: Burnley had a roller coaster ride this year, but Sean Dyche managed to pick the club up from 19th in early December to finish without worry over the last few months. Nailing the magic 40-point total on the nose, it’s hard to argue with where they finished given the rough first half.  
Star player
: Chris Wood
Most memorable goal
: Ashley Barnes‘ finish off an exquisite Johan Berg Gudmudsson delivery capped off an eight-match unbeaten run that defined Burnley’s season. They’d go on to lose their next four, but that stretch combined with a solid finish to the campaign gave them life and avoided a relegation battle.


Manager grade: Sean Dyche: B
Hopes for next season
: Keeping Burnley up will be the consistent goal until the club can build a financial base to challenge for a top half finish. Sean Dyche managed to meet the goal relatively comfortably this season after a rough start to the campaign, but how much longer can they keep hold of him?

Bournemouth

Finishing position/points total: 14 / 45pts
High point
: Sitting 6th in mid-October with 6 wins in the first 10 games
Low point
: A 7-game stretch through the holidays conceding 20 goals and earning just 4 points

Our opinion: It was a solid season for Bournemouth, although without the fabulous start to the season, things may have ended quite differently. After the first 11 games where lost just twice, the club picked up 25 points over a 27-match span, a relegation-type pace. Eddie Howe is a good manager who may end up at a bigger club sooner rather than later, but Bournemouth’s consistent inability to defend despite good back-line talent will give a potential suitor pause.
Star player
: Ryan Fraser
Most memorable goal
: This strike by David Brooks from outside the box helped Bournemouth to a big 2-0 win over Brighton when the Cherries were beginning to nosedive down the table.


Manager grade: Eddie Howe: C
Hopes for next season
: Bournemouth is about where they’re going to be, and survival is the perennial goal. They may be a candidate for the drop once again, but with as much firepower as they have, it shouldn’t be on the cards for them. An improvement at the back would be helpful over the summer.

Newcastle United

Finishing position/points total:
High point
: A 2-1 win over eventual champions Man City in late January, Pep Guardiola‘s final loss of the season.
Low point
: No wins in the first 10 matches of the season.

Our opinion: Rafa Benitez stumbled early after another summer of penny pinching from Mike Ashley, but he recovered enough to lift Newcastle out of the relegation battle, and convinced Ashley to splash the cash for Miguel Almiron in the winter, a move that proved positive until Almiron got hurt. Benitez is arguably the most valuable asset at the club and he did well to keep this squad out of the bottom three.
Star player
: Ayoze Perez is the team’s star goalscorer but Matt Ritchie is the man who makes the team tick.
Most memorable goal
: Matt Ritchie’s late penalty to beat Man City gave Newcastle its most famous win of the season, but Fabian Schar’s absolute howitzer to take the lead over Burnley in February is easily the stunner of the year for Newcastle. That win capped off a 6-match stretch that included four wins and just three goals conceded.


Manager grade: Rafa Benitez: A-
Hopes for next season
: If Benitez is to be believed, Newcastle has European potential, but it will take a few years to realize that potential. Should they keep Benitez around, Newcastle should be a top half contender if Ashley can be convinced to open the wallet this summer.

Crystal Palace

Finishing position/points total: 12 / 49pts
High point
: Five wins in seven to end the season, including a 3-2 win over Arsenal
Low point
: Eight games without a win through October and November

Our opinion: Aside from the brutal start to the year which saw Palace gain just nine points from their first 13 games, Crystal Palace had a very good campaign – it would have likely featured a top-half finish with a better start to the year. Ugly losses still dot the season occasionally (this is the Premier League, after all, nothing is guaranteed), but Hodgson has built this side into a consistent performer week in and week out.
Star player
: Wilfried Zaha
Most memorable goal
: Andros Townsend scored a ripper against Burnley (who seem to have been victimized plenty by great goals this season) but there is no question that his volley against Manchester City is Crystal Palace’s best of the campaign and maybe the entire Premier League this season.


Manager grade: Rod Hodgson: B-
Hopes for next season
: Crystal Palace always has the potential to end up sucked into the relegation scrap with a bad run of form, as the start to this season showed, so staying up should always be priority #1. However, with that in hand, the club should be challenging for top-half finishes if they would like to continue growing. 53 goals conceded is less than all but one club below them in the table, meaning the defense performed well, and if they can attack like they did during the run-in this season (11 goals scored against Arsenal, Cardiff, and Bournemouth) they’ll be poised to make that happen.

Watford

Finishing position/points total: 11 / 50pts
High point
: Beating Tottenham for its fourth straight win to start the season.
Low point
: Losing six of nine to finish the season.

Our opinion: At its best, Watford is a fantastic group that absorbs pressure and counters with vicious intent. At its worst, it gives up four goals to Bournemouth or West Ham. Overall, Watford did quite well this season, and while the four straight to start the season set lofty expectations that were unsustainable, finishing 11th in the Premier League is a laudable accomplishment even with the disappointing finish to the campaign.
Star player
: While Troy Deeney, Andre Gray, and Gerard Deulofeu shared the goalscoring this season, defender Craig Cathcart logged more minutes than anyone on the squad this season and bagged the winner against Tottenham early in the season.
Most memorable goal
: Watford bagged a host of good goals this season, but this brilliant solo run from Roberto Pereyra is the best of the bunch.


Manager grade: Javi Gracia: B+
Hopes for next season
: Somehow, Watford made finishing 11th appear disappointing, proof that they were strong for most of the long season. Watford even challenged for a spot in Europe before being outlasted by Wolves, so fans will hope that next season they can finish the deal and earn a top-7 spot.

West Ham 4-1 Watford: Irons smash Watford to finish season in style (video)

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  • Noble scores twice
  • West Ham finish with 52 points
  • Holebas red card in 48th minute
  • Watford suffer major loss before cup final

On the same day his former club won its second-straight title, Manuel Pellegrini had himself a great end of the season as well. West Ham routed ten-man Watford, 4-1, at Vicarage Road, finishing the season with 52 points and securely in mid-table in the Premier League standings. It was West Ham’s third consecutive win to finish the season, following victories over Tottenham and Southampton.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

West Ham captain Mark Noble scored twice while Marko Arnautovic and Manuel Lanzini each added one of their own in the road victory. Meanwhile, Gerard Deolufeo scored the lone goal for Watford, though he had to be substituted midway through the second half on suspicion of injury. It was a rough end of the season for Watford, which now prepares for the FA Cup final a week from today.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

West Ham was in the ascendancy early in the first half, and it showed as the Irons got on the board first. Combining with Michail Antonio, Noble passed through the heart of midfield before running at Watford’s defense in the 15th minute. Noble then cut back to his left foot and slotted a strike home, past Ben Foster to put West Ham up 1-0.

Antonio again played a role in his side’s second goal, as he battled with Watford’s Craig Cathcart and Kiko before squirming free. Despite being off balance, Antonio’s strike clattered off the bar. Luckily for West Ham, it went right into the path of the wide-open Lanzini, who headed into an open net.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Javi Gracia‘s halftime team talk must have worked because Watford came out with more intensity and fight in the second half. The hosts used a bit of luck as well to cut the lead in half and for the moment, get back into the game.

A poor back pass from Pablo Zabaleta, perhaps with some of his mind on how his former Manchester City teammates were doing, put Fabian Balbuena and Lukasz Fabianski in no-mans land. Deulofeu, who had a quiet first half, ran down the ball, poked it past Fabianski and scored to make it 2-1 just 20 seconds into the second half.

However, Watford’s hopes to secure a point took a big hit two minutes later. With Antonio through on goal, Jose Holebas pulled him down just outside the box, leading to a straight red card for the denial of a goal-scoring opportunity.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

West Ham poured it on as the second half went on, with Jack Wilshere seeing minutes in the second half and Noble and Arnautovic scoring to make it a 4-1 scoreline.

Shane Long records fastest goal in Premier League history (video)

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A record was broken just seven seconds into the match between Watford and Southampton at Vicarage Road on Tuesday.

That’s how long it took Shane Long to score the fastest goal in Premier League history as he gave Southampton the earliest of leads on the road.

WATCH WATFORD v. SAINTS LIVE HERE

The goal breaks the record held by Tottenham defender Ledley King, a mark that had stood for nearly 19 years after he scored a hair under 10 seconds into a match against Bradford City in December of 2000. His record withstood a near-miss when Spurs midfielder Christian Eriksen scored 10 seconds into a match against Manchester United last season, but the initial strike was deemed to stand after breaking the video down and timing the goals to the hundredth of a second.

This one, however, left no doubt, as Opta confirmed the record right away, officially at 7.69 seconds. Long jumped high in the air to block a long ball from Watford defender Craig Cathcart, and the bounce fell right at his feet. The Saints striker burst forward and finished easily past Ben Foster who was suddenly left on an island.

The goal for Long is his third in the club’s last four Premier League games, helping Southampton to inch further from the relegation zone. A win over Watford would do just that, all but sealing the club’s Premier League safety next season.