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Man City deals with tight finish: ‘They pushed but we handled it very well’

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Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster kept Manchester City at bay long enough for Watford to give the Premier League leaders a late scare at Vicarage Road.

Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez gave City a 2-0 lead despite a series of blockbuster saves from Foster, and Abdoulaye Doucoure bundled a late chance over the line.

[ RECAP: Watford 1-2 Man City ]

That triggered a late Watford flurry in the 2-1 win, but City again proved it has the calm to close out a game when its unable to finish its chances.

“It’s a good old Premier League match,” said Vincent Kompany on NBCSN. “We knew that as soon as we scored, the long balls were going to start coming. Credit to us for staying strong and winning some challenges at the end. … We had a few 1v1 chances and when it doesn’t become 3- or 4-nil anything can happen. The last 10 minutes were a battle but you can’t win every game with fiery football.”

Mahrez, who also assisted Sane’s goal, agreed.

“They pushed but I think we handled the situation very well, to go back with the three points,” Mahrez said. “We knew when we scored the first goal, it opened space. We had a few chances to kill the game but didn’t. So when they scored the goal with the fans and everything, it got a little bit difficult.”

Guardiola had fine words for the opposing goalie and his dynamite left winger.

“Leroy Sane is scoring goals, he is back,” Guardiola said. “It is always difficult at Stamford Bridge, we must recover our legs and our mind. … We had a good performance, we were aggressive and regained the balls. Ben Foster made some incredible saves.”

Watford manager Javi Gracia‘s comments confirm that the managers are in agreement on the matter.

“Ben Foster was great, it is no surprise to me. When I came to London I thought Big Ben was in the city but no, he is in Watford for us.”

What have we learned about each PL club?

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As we are now a third of the way into the 2018-19 Premier League season, now seems like a good time to take stock of each team ahead of the busy festive period.

And that is exactly what we shall do ahead of a busy festive period which will help to define their campaigns.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live

Below are 20 searingly hot takes on each PL club and what we’ve learned from their opening 13 games of the season.


Arsenal: They have more grit than the last decade, Lucas Torreira is the central midfield player they’ve been missing for the last decade and Unai Emery isn’t scared to drop big names: we’re looking at you, Mesut. Top four seems genuinely achievable and that would be a remarkable first season for Emery who has already changed the philosophy of this team.


Bournemouth: Callum Wilson, David Brooks, Josh King and Ryan Fraser are the best attacking foursome outside of the top six and Eddie Howe‘s side are set for a top 10 finish. The Cherries are also one of the most wasteful teams in the PL despite


Brighton & Hove Albion: Glenn Murray is a machine and the 35-year-old seems to be actually getting younger, as his seven goals so far show. We’ve learned that Brighton remain great at home and terrible on the road.


Burnley: That they’re relegation candidates and are leaking goals like a shoddy sieve. Sean Dyche can point to the Europa League hangover, but their incredible 2017-18 campaign seems like it was a flash in the pan. The Clarets are now returning to their mean of being the plucky underdogs.


Cardiff City: Harry Arter personifies this Cardiff team and they are horrible to play against, especially at home. Neil Warnock‘s men aren’t pushovers and won’t go down without a huge fight. Plus, they’re better going forward than we previously thought. Also, Warnock remains must-see in his pre and post-match interviews.


Chelsea: Jorginho is the man their team is built around and also their kryptonite. If you can shut him down like Spurs did, you can shut down Sarri-ball. Perhaps not genuine title contenders after all, unless Eden Hazard goes on another tear. Also, figuring out the best place to play N'Golo Kante is vital as he just isn’t dominating games in a more advanced role like he was as a true defensive midfielder in the past.


Crystal Palace: Without Wilfried Zaha they may never score a goal, but even with him they don’t seem as fluid as last season. Zaha seems to be battling small injuries constantly and that is not good news for Palace. Roy Hodgson may not last the season despite his incredible turnaround in 2017-18.


Everton: Marco Silva‘s revolution is coming along quicker than we thought after a slow start and the Toffees have finally found a way to get Richarlison, Sigurdsson, Walcott and Bernard all into the team at the same time. We’ve also learned that the $55 million spent on Richarlison was a bargain. Sixth place is achievable and their defense is now stronger with the additions of Lucas Digne and Yerry Mina, plus Jordan Pickford and the resurgence of Michael Keane.


Fulham: Claudio Ranieri has the ability to save their season after Jokanovic’s gung-ho approach left them bottom of the table. We’ve already seen it from their nail-biting 3-2 win against Southampton: Fulham haven’t got the players to implement Ranieri’s defensive strategy. Expect plenty of moves in the January window to add defensive reinforcements. Going forward they’re more than fine as Aleksandar Mitrovic and Andre Schurrle are delivering the goods.


Huddersfield Town: We’ve all written them off incorrectly. A striker still hasn’t scored for David Wagner‘s side but they are more than capable of picking up points at home. A relegation scrap is on its way and the Terriers are looking forward to it.


Leicester City: Their kids are more than alright as Chilwell, Maddison and Gray are all now regulars in the starting lineup. Jamie Vardy is still plugging away but other veterans from their title-winning season are finding it tough to get minutes. They are now a solid, steady midtable team and Claude Puel should be applauded for steering the players through a tough time off the pitch.


Liverpool: That they are the real deal and the only genuine contenders to Man City for the title. That is due to their newfound defensive solidity as Joe Gomez and Virgil Van Dijk must start together each week at center back. We’ve also learned that Jurgen Klopp has tweaked his “full throttle” style slightly and they are capable of picking and choosing their moments better.


Manchester City: They may be better than last season. It will be tough for them to surpass their record 100 point tally, but across the board they’ve improved drastically. In defense the partnership between Laporte and Stones looks formidable and City’s attackers have all upped their game after Riyad Mahrez‘s arrival.


Manchester United: Top four is as good as it will get and they still don’t have a long-term plan in terms of player recruitment or a playing style. In Jose Mourinho’s third season, it’s crazy they are this far off the title contenders and some of their defeats and performances this season have been way below what should be expected. That said, the old United spirit of launching late comebacks has returned.


Newcastle United: Whatever happens, Rafael Benitez deserves the freedom of Newcastle for working for Mike Ashley given the restraints placed upon him. With little money to spend, the Magpies have hit form in recent weeks after a poor start. Rafa never stopped believing and they should pull clear of the bottom three in the next few months.


Southampton: They’re in a mess. Off the pitch former chairman Les Reed has been fired, leaving them without a figurehead and on the pitch they’ve won just once. Although they’re playing well in stages, Mark Hughes‘ defense are making basic errors and his attack are missing big chances. Not a great combination as Saints’ player recruitment has once again failed to live up to is previous high standards. Another relegation battle awaits.


Tottenham Hotspur: That Mauricio Pochettino can work miracles and improve players quickly. We all know they didn’t sign anyone over the summer, but Poch has improved Moura, Foyth and Sissoko so they could come in and help Spurs deal with injuries. They are third, have had their best-ever start to a PL season and have a chance of reaching the UCL last 16. It hasn’t been pretty at times, but Spurs have a nice habit of grinding out wins. Not quite title contenders, but closer than anybody else to Man City and Liverpool.


Watford: Their model isn’t for everyone but it works and Javi Gracia has brought a calmness to the club. Constantly chopping and changing bosses and players, Watford often start the season superbly and then falter. Gracia has them inside the top 10 and they’re genuine contenders for a Europa League spot if they can have a solid second half of the season. A robust midfield and defense has allowed Pereyra and Deulofeu to express themselves in attack.


West Ham United: We haven’t learned a lot, in all honestly. We know they have quality players but this squad is unbalanced and it is down to Marko Arnautovic and Felipe Anderson to create the goals which will get them out of trouble. Under Manuel Pellegrini they haven’t improved defensively, which will be a concern given the big bucks they’ve spent.


Wolverhampton Wanderers: We’ve learned that we can expect inconsistency from a team back in the top-flight with plenty of expectation on their shoulders. After their heavy-spending in the summer, they have lots of players still getting used to the PL. An incredible start has given way to a wobble in recent weeks. A midtable finish should be easily achievable. We’ve also learned that Matt Doherty may be one of the best right wing backs in the PL.


Watford sign manager Gracia to new long-term contract

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If his first 11 months in charge is a sign of things to come, Watford may have finally found a permanent manager for the future.

With his deal set to expire at the end of this season, Watford made sure to lock down its coach, signing manager Javi Gracia to a new four-and-a-half year contract. Gracia currently has Watford in ninth place in the table, with 20 points from 13 games. Despite a recent bad string of results – three consecutive defeats – the team is still two points out of sixth place, following a torrid start of the season, when the club won its first four Premier League games.

[READ: Mourinho displays antics after Man United’s late win over Young Boys]

“We are delighted that Javi has agreed an extension to his contract,” Watford chairman and CEO Scott Duxbury said in a statement. “From day one it was clear that Javi worked well with us and shared our vision of how to achieve success for Watford Football Club, and we are looking forward to continuing that work together for many years to come.”

Gracia joined Watford in January 2018 after the club parted ways with now-Everton manager Marco Silva. Gracia tightened up his squad’s defense and led his side to some big wins, perhaps none bigger than the 4-1 thrashing of Chelsea in early February.

Since returning to the Premier League in 2015, Watford has had four different managers. Perhaps Gracia can buck the trend started by the Pozzo family who own the club, and stay on for longer.

Top Premier League storylines for Week 13

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The final international break of 2018 is in the rearview mirror, thus the Premier League takes center stage for the next three and a half months.

[ MORE: Barca’s next signing of a Liverpool player will cost extra $114M ]

Here are the five storylines we’ll be watching most closely this weekend…


Tottenham look to spoil Chelsea’s unbeaten start
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea, 12:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, on NBC [ STREAM ]

Chelsea, alongside Manchester City and Liverpool, remain undefeated to begin the 2018-19 season, but the Blues are set for a tough test on Saturday when they take on Tottenham, the only side in the PL without a draw this season, at Wembley Stadium. Maurizio Sarri‘s side might be unbeaten, but they’ve endured a largely indifferent run of results in recent weeks, as they’ve drawn more games (four) than they’ve won (three) over the last two months. Each side won away from home in their two meetings last season.

Who will can play for Spurs?
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea, 12:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, on NBC [ STREAM ]

Mauricio Pochettino has enough defenders and midfielder to pick a standard starting lineup on Saturday… probably. It’s been a tough season for Spurs on the injury front, but here’s a list of who’s currently unavailable: Davinson Sanchez, Mousa Dembele, Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose. Jan Vertonghen has been out for two months but is one of three players, alongside Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama, who could return just in time for this London derby. And yet, Spurs have managed nine wins from their first 12 games and sit fourth in the table. They are, however, yet to beat a side currently in the top-seven (losses to Man City, Liverpool and Watford).

Man City, Liverpool take title race on the road
West Ham vs. Man City, 10 a.m. ET, Saturday, on NBCSN [ STREAM ]
Watford vs. Liverpool, 10 a.m. ET, Saturday, on NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]

They look set to run neck and neck with one another all season — currently separated by just two points — and they’ll both hit the road on Saturday. Liverpool have the tougher of the two tests, as they’ll take on Javi Gracia’s seventh-place (just ahead of Manchester United) Watford at Vicarage Road. City will also be in London, taking on 12th-place West Ham at the London Stadium.

Bournemouth-Arsenal is a top-six clash
Bournemouth vs. Arsenal, 8:30 a.m. ET, Sunday, on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Ever since Arsenal’s seven-game winning streak was snapped nearly a month ago, the points have been trickling in one at a time for Unai Emery‘s Gunners. Three straight draws — against Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers — have dropped Arsenal to fifth place, three points behind Spurs, and made Sunday’s trip to the south coast of England a massively important one. No one has outperformed expectations more than Bournemouth thus far, as Eddie Howe‘s Cherries sit just four points back of Arsenal in sixth place.

Ranieri takes charge at Craven Cottage
Fulham vs. Southampton, 10 a.m. ET, Saturday, on NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]

The bad news for Fulham: they sit bottom of the league with just five points from 12 games. Now, the good news: they’re only three points from safety and there are 26 games still to play. Claudio Ranieri is set to make his Fulham debut when Southampton come to west London on Saturday, and nothing would do more to rally the club around the new boss than snapping the Cottagers’ six-game losing streak and securing their first victory since August..

Premier League Club Power Rankings: Week 11

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Call it the calm before the storm: Liverpool and Chelsea face winnable matches at home while No. 1 Man City tries to navigate the Manchester Derby.

[ ARCHIVE: Premier League club power rankings ]

And we’ve got a new bottom team on our rankings with few signs of improvement at Craven Cottage. How long will Fulham stay 20th?


20. Fulham *New season low* — The Cottagers held the opposition to less than two goals for the first time since Sept. 22, but that’s not achievement against the anemic attack of Huddersfield Town. Losing 1-0 is comparable to its 4-2 loss to Cardiff City. Bad, bad games to lose.
Last week: 18
Season high: 11
Season low: 20

19. Huddersfield Town — Monday’s win was very nice, but we’re not going to break out the party horns and streamers because a goal was scored against Fulham. A result against visiting West Ham would have us at least Googling where to find said celebratory items.
Last week: 20
Season high: 18
Season low: 20

18. Cardiff City — Kudos to the Bluebirds for their classy handling of a difficult occasion in Leicester City’s visit following the death of Foxes owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. A visit from Brighton is a different sort of test.
Last week: 16
Season high: 16
Season low: 20

17. Southampton — Had its moments in a 6-1 loss to Man City, really, but has to take advantage when inconsistent Watford comes to town.
Last week: 15
Season high: 13
Season low: 17

16. Newcastle United — And exhale (but only for a moment). Newcastle finally gets its first win of the season. The Magpies are better than their record suggests, but not by much. Getting a result from high-flying Bournemouth at St. James’ Park this weekend would be a nice respite for supporters heading into an international break.
Last week: 18
Season high: 13
Season low: 19

Rafa Benitez wants the January transfer window to open early (Owen Humphreys/PA via AP)

15. Burnley — Three-straight losses to very good attacks, and Leicester City can score, too. Can Burnley stop its four-match winless run?
Last week: 17
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

14. Crystal Palace — Losers of five of six in all competitions, with the sixth being a 2-2 draw at Arsenal. These Power Rankings’ patience with the Eagles is tooth floss thin.
Last week: 14
Season high: 6
Season low: 15

13. Wolves — Have lost to Spurs, Brighton, and Watford since beating a Palace team we’ve already described as not quite there.
Last week: 12
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

12. Watford — Javi Gracia‘s men have a maddening way of disappearing, and they really should’ve found a way to a win at Newcastle. Those are the breaks when you’re on a losing run and, either way, when you give a team its first win of the season, you’re going to drop down our table.
Last week: 8
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

11. West Ham — Manuel Pellegrini can start to aim higher on the table with a win at Huddersfield Town this weekend.
Last week: 13
Season high: 9
Season low: 20

10. Brighton and Hove Albion — Chris Hughton‘s men will hope the Everton loss was a blip on the radar of a well-run vessel. A visit to Cardiff City should help right the ship.
Last week: 10
Season high: 9
Season low: 19

9. Leicester City — Finding a winner on such a wildly-emotional day at Cardiff City is wonderful, but how will the Foxes be able to perform in their return home from Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s funeral in Thailand? All our best to the LCFC family.
Last week: 11
Season high: 7
Season low: 13

Leicester City’s Demarai Gray celebrates scoring his side’s first goal of the game and reveals a shirt that reads ‘For Khun Vichai’ (Simon Galloway/PA via AP)

8. Bournemouth — Losing to the cardiac kids of Manchester United is no shame, but a bounce back is necessary.
Last week: 7
Season high: 6
Season low: 12

7. Everton — That’s a fine win over Brighton, and the Toffees are finally where we expected them to be this season. Now can Marco Silva and Co. claim a result at Chelsea?
Last week: 9
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

6. Manchester United — It’s not sexy, but it’s working for Jose Mourinho. This first derby of the season is a big, big one for this Red Devils side.
Last week: 6
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

5. Arsenal — No shame in drawing Liverpool.
Last week: 4
Season high: 2
Season low: 9

4. Spurs — For as unimpressive as Mauricio Pochettino‘s men have been from time-to-time, Spurs are three points off second place Chelsea and third place Liverpool. If they can get through the Champions League group stage without dipping too far off the Top Four, anything short of the title is possible.
Last week: 5
Season high: 3
Season low: 8

3. Liverpool — For all the Reds’ struggles with mojo, Mohamed Salah finding his finishing boots is really all they need to challenge for the title. The Egyptian is finding loads of chances but just not putting them away.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 4

2. Chelsea — They just kinda go about their business, don’t they? Won in Belarus on Thursday despite leaving much of the club at home.
Last week: 3
Season high: 1
Season low: 5

1. Man City — Look out: For as good as City has been, a loss in the derby could easily see them third on the table.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 2