George Byers

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FA Cup: Crystal Palace, Swansea reach quarterfinals (video)

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Crystal Palace and Swansea City reached the FA Cup quarterfinals on Sunday, as they eased to victory.

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Palace travelled to third-tier Doncaster Rovers and two first half goals steered Roy Hodgson‘s men into the last eight. As for Swansea City, they trailed Brentford at half time but four goals from the Swans and a red card for the Bees swung the games in the favor of the Welsh side.

Swansea are one of just two teams from outside the Premier League to be in the last eight.

Below are the details from Sunday’s final two FA Cup fifth round games, as the two teams join Wolves, Manchester City, Brighton, Watford and Millwall in the hat for the last eight draw.

The final team in the last eight will be either Chelsea or Manchester United, who play at Stamford Bridge on Monday.


Doncaster 0-2 Crystal Palace

Jeffrey Schlupp gave Palace the lead with a fine individual effort as he was played in after a wonderful interception from Luka Milivojevic. Schlupp’s shot across goal took a slight deflection and flew into the far bottom corner to make it 1-0.

Doncaster went close on a few occasions in the first half but Palace held them at arms length and right on half time made it 2-0.

Milivojevic again created the goal as his looped ball over the top found Andros Townsend who headed the ball towards Meyer and he nodded home.

In the second half Doncaster pushed hard to get back into the game and went close on several occasions from set piece situations, with Alfie May heading their best chance just over.

Overall, Palace held on quite comfortably for the win and secured a spot in the last eight.


Swansea City 4-1 Brentford

The away side took the lead after a wonderful counter-attack was finished off emphatically by Ollie Watkins, but that was to be as good as it got for the west Londoners.

In the second half Swansea came flying out of the traps and drew level in fortunate circumstances, with a free kick from Bersant Celina bouncing off Brentford goalkeeper Luke Daniels and in. 1-1.

Moments later the Swans were 2-1 up as Dan James scored a superb goal to turn the games on its head.

The highly-touted winger surged in on goal and beat Daniels to send the home fans wild.

Brentford ended the game with 10 men as James was then cynically brought down by Ezri Konsa and shown a red card.

Celina then made it 3-1 after a lovely run, and the excellent James and Celina combined to set up George Byers to make it 4-1 in stoppage time to cap off a brilliant day for Graham Potter and his Swans.

Despite their relegation from the Premier League last season and being in midtable in the second-tier, Swansea are in the last eight of the FA Cup for the second season in a row.

Premier League 2016-17 season preview: Watford

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Yet another new man is in charge at Watford as Italian tactician Walter Mazzarri looks to take the Hornets to the next level.

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Watford survived comfortably last season after promotion and 2016-17 marks their first-ever back-to-back campaigns in the Premier League.

Former manager Quique Sanchez Flores had great success early in the season but that form petered out and led to his departure for Espanyol in the summer. With Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo up front, Watford have plenty of attacking threat as their pace and power dovetail lethally.

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The Pozzo family (they also own Udinese in Italy and Granada in Spain) have been criticized for appointing eight managers in the last five seasons at Watford but the club continues on an upwards curve and after spending over $35 million on new players this summer, the hope is to push into the top 10 of the PL. Mazzarri will have his work cut out to do that but the Hornets should be tough to break down, especially at home.

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Watford will get off to a flier and push for a top 10 finish because… They have invested heavily over the summer and are a bit of an unknown quantity with a new manager at the helm. Any teams who underestimates them will find Deeney and Ighalo breathing down their necks.

Most likely second-season syndrome will strike and it’ll be a relegation battle: Look at Watford’s first five games and it is brutal. They face Southampton, Arsenal, Chelsea, West Ham and Manchester United. Ouch. If Mazzarri’s boys are struggling for points going into October, expect the Pozzo family to make a managerial move. History says that aren’t afraid to wield the axe.


Best Possible XI

—– Gomes —–

—- Kabasele —- Cathcart —- Britos —-

— Anya — Suarez — Watson — Capoue — Holebas —

—- Deeney —- Ighalo —-


Transfers in: Jerome Sinclair ($5.2 million, Liverpool), Issac Success ($16.3 million, Granada), Christian Kabasele ($7.5 million, Genk), Brice Dje Djede ($5.2 million, Marseille), Juan Camilo Zuniga (Loan, Napoli)

Transfers out: Jose Manuel Jurado (Undisclosed, Espanyol), Gabriele Angella (Undisclosed, Udinese), Daniel Pudil (Undisclosed, Sheffield Wednesday), Almen Abdi (Undisclosed, Sheffield Wednesday), George Byers (Free, Swansea City), Josh Doherty (Free, Leyton Orient), Jorell Johnson (Free, Hemel Hempstead Town), Bernand Mensah (Free, Aldershot Town), Luke Simpon (Free, York City), Alfie Young, Mahlondo Martin, Uche Ikpeazu, Joel Ekstrand (All released), Adalberto Penaranda (Loan, Udinese), Obbi Oulare (Loan, Zulte Waregem), Dennon Lewis (Loan, Woking), Steven Berghuis (Loan, Feyenoord)

Last season: The Hornets started off superbly and were in the top half of the table up until January time. Then the slide happened and former boss Flores had to battle to keep them away from the relegation zone in the closing weeks of the season after just four wins in 2016. Still, Watford were never really in danger of going down and they also reached the semifinal of the FA Cup where they narrowly lost to Crystal Palace. They were one of the real success stories of last season.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 30: Troy Deeney of Watford during the pre season friendly match between Queens Park Rangers and Watford at Loftus Road on July 30, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)
(Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Star player: Troy Deeney – He scored 13 goals in his first-ever season in the Premier League and Deeney is the heart and soul of this club. The captain has been with Watford for six seasons and alongside Ighalo they are a real handful for PL defenses. He can drop deep to hold up the ball and bring others into the game, plus he always seems to be at the right place at the right time in the box. A warrior.

Coach’s Corner: Mazzarri has been working his squad hard on the training ground and his lack of English could be hurtful but there’s no doubting his resume. The former Napoli and Inter Milan manager has experience in the UEFA Champions League and led Sampdoria to success in a two-year spell. Expect Watford to line up in a 3-5-2 formation  and like most Italian coaches, Mazzarri is known to be a stickler for defensive organization. With the players at his disposal, that philosophy will slot in nicely. Still, a tough task to push Watford into the top 10 but their fans would take another season of midtable.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 30: Watford manager Walter Mazarri during the Pre-Season friendly match between Queens Park Rangers and Watford at Loftus Road on July 30, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)
(Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)

PST predicts: Watford have plenty of goals in them with Deeney and Ighalo and the rest of their squad should benefit from a years experience in the PL. The aim is to mirror the achievements of a Stoke City, Swansea or Southampton. First Watford must solidify their status as a PL club and then they can kick on. This season is hugely important but you get the sense that they could be struggling after being handed such a difficult start. Expect the Hornets to be hovering just about the relegation scrap and to potentially get dragged into it.

Premier League 2016-17 season preview: Swansea

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They were a completely different team during the second half of the 2015/16 season, but can Swansea City duplicate its strong efforts in Francesco Guidolin‘s first full year?

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The Italian will have his work cut out for him with many of the Premier League’s top sides spending big dollars on well-known commodities. Swansea don’t have the luxury of spending big, which could very well hamper their chances of succeeding, but Guidolin has been in similar positions before in Italy and still found results.

[ MORE: Every PL season preview ]

With a good assortment of defensive options and Polish keeper Lukasz Fabianski in net, the Swans should put out a strong lineup from a tactical perspective. The biggest questions will be where the production comes from up top.

Modou Barrow didn’t do much on loan the past two seasons, but appears to be getting more of a run out this season, while Andre Ayew will have a lot expected of him as he prepares to build off of a strong second season at the Liberty Stadium.

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Swans will challenge for top half placement: Andre Ayew was a strong addition last season, and the team has the pieces to put together a dangerous attack. Gylfi Sigurdsson is coming off of a fantastic summer with Iceland at EURO 2016, while steady options like Jefferson Montero and Wayne Routledge can give the Swans a boost in the midfield.

Most likely it’ll be a mid-table finish: Despite bringing back many of the same starters from a season ago, Van der Hoorn is one of the few additions that will contribute regularly for the Swans, and the team still lacks talent up front. Bafetimbi Gomis‘ loan move to France puts the side at a disadvantage, leaving major concerns up front as to where the goals will come from.


Best Possible XI

—– Fabianski —–

— Van der Hoorn — Taylor — Williams — Naughton —

— Fer — Sigurdsson —– Montero

 — Routledge — Ayew —

—– Barrow —–


Transfers inLeroy Fer ($6 million, QPR), Mike Van der Hoorn (Undisclosed, Ajax), Mark Birighitti (Free, Newcastle Jets), Tyler Reid (Undisclosed, Manchester United), George Byers (Free, Watford)

Transfers out:

Eder ($4 million, Lille), Alberto Paloschi ($7 million, Atalanta), Bafetimbi Gomis (Loan, Marseille), Kenji Gorre (Loan, Northampton), Kyle Bartley (Loan, Leeds), Raheem Hanley (Free, Northampton), Liam Shephard (Loan, Yeovil), Oliver Davies (Loan, Kilmarnock), Matt Grimes (Loan, Leeds)

Last season: A 12th place finish that largely went unrecognized by many wasn’t what Swansea wanted in 2015/16, but their overall performance was admirable. Wins against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United at home were among the most notable efforts from the Swans, while the club also secured victories against Arsenal and West Ham on the road.

Star player: Andre Ayew — With 12 goals and four assists during the 2015/16 season, Ayew proved his worth to the Swans, and supporters will be holding their breath that the Ghanaian can duplicate his efforts again this season. While he isn’t always the most exciting player to watch, Ayew always puts in a solid shift and does the little things going both ways. Swansea will likely go as far as the 26-year-old takes them.

SWANSEA, WALES - SEPTEMBER 19: Andre Ayew of Swansea City and James McCarthy of Everton compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Everton at the Liberty Stadium on September 19, 2015 in Swansea, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Coach’s corner: After taking over during the second half of the season for the Swans in 2016, Francesco Guidolin provided a noticeable spark to his players.

Taking results in 11 of their 16 matches, Guidolin and his side were a significantly different team over the second portion of the PL campaign, giving supporters and the club confidence going into the future.

While Guidolin has previously worked extensively in Italy’s Serie A, the former Hellas Verona midfielder is looking to do something a bit risky in the Premier League; spend as little as possible and grind out results.

SWANSEA, WALES - FEBRUARY 13:  Francesco Guidolin, Manager of Swansea City looks on prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Southampton at Liberty Stadium on February 13, 2016 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)

PST predicts: As much as it would be nice to see Swansea make a jump into the next tier of the Premier League, the club’s offseason moves keep them as a very limited squad. While players like Ayew, Montero, and even Modou Barrow will perform well against lower half opponents, it will be hard to get consistent production out of them when it comes to facing the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United on a regular basis. A mid-table finish will likely be in this team’s future for the second straight season.