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Aston Villa grab vital point at Brighton

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Injury-hit Aston Villa grabbed a big point at Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

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Leandro Trossard gave Brighton a first half lead but Jack Grealish popped up with a second half equalizer to share the points in a fiery encounter at the Amex.

With the draw both teams remained embroiled in a relegation battle as Brighton have 25 points and sit three points ahead of Villa who occupy 18th, the final relegation spot.


3 things we learned

1. Grealish delivers, again: Riddled by injuries, Villa needed their captain to stand tall. He did. Again. Even in recent heavy defeats Grealish has tried to drive Villa on and he has now scored in their tight win at Burnley and grabbed them a point at Brighton. Against relegation rivals, Grealish has delivered for Villa and at 24 years old he conrinues to mature.

2. Brighton let another lead slip: The Seagulls have won just won of their last eight league games and they keep letting leads slip in tight games. Graham Potter‘s side have plenty of the ball and dominate games but just can’t score the second goal to finish teams off. They have only scored more than one goal once in their last seven games and for all of their fine attacking play, Brighton are three points off the bottom because they can’t finish teams off.

3. Relegation battle coming up: Both teams showed why they will be in a relegation battle all season long. Brighton can’t score or finish teams off, while Villa are too reliant on Grealish and have no real attacking options as they rode their luck at Brighton. Potter and Dean Smith are two progressive, young, English coaches but they will be pushed to their limits to keep their teams up this season. They may also have to put their principles of free-flowing, attacking football to one side if they’re going to be managing PL clubs next season.

Man of the Match: Jack Grealish – Villa’s main man popped up with the goal which grabbed them a point and he was everywhere. Villa had no central striker once again as they wait to bring someone in during the January window with Wesley out for the season, and Grealish made so many runs forward during the game to try and take the pressure off his team.


Jack Grealish smashed an effort just wide as Villa looked dangerous on the counter without a recognized striker.

The Seagulls then came close to the taking the lead as Bernardo‘s cross found Aaron Mooy and his volley was cleared, eventually, as an almighty scramble ensued.

Aaron Connolly then knocked a low cross just wide as he seemed to be surprised that the ball found him in the six yard box.

Brighton took the lead as Neal Maupay ran towards goal and teed up Trossard who fired home across goal and into the far corner.

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Mohamed Trezeguet was denied by Mat Ryan in a rare Villa attack as Brighton were dominating, with young American Indiana Vassilev coming on for his Premier League debut.

Moments later Grealish made it 1-1 as a poor mistake from Brighton saw Douglas Luiz play a long ball over the top and Villa’s skipper slammed home to send the away end wild.

Late on Villa debutant Pepe Reina made a wonderful stop to deny Maupay preserve a point as tempers flared towards and after the final whistle as both sets of players were involved in a huge melee.

Watford, Tottenham in stalemate

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Watford and Tottenham Hotspur drew 0-0 at Vicarage Road on Saturday as Paulo Gazzaniga saved Troy Deeney‘s penalty kick.

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Both teams had big chances to win it in a scrappy, feisty game but Nigel Pearson and Jose Mourinho both seemed fairly happy with a point at the final whistle.

With the point Watford move two points clear of the relegation zone on 23 points, while Spurs are eight points off the top four.


3 things we learned

1. Spurs not able without Kane: Tottenham didn’t muster a shot on target in the second half and they lacked cutting edge in attack. There were plenty of nice touches from Lamela, Dele Alli and Son but you didn’t feel like a goal was inevitable when they attacked. That is because Harry Kane is out injured and Spurs have now gone three Premier League games without a goal and Kane has missed two and a bit of those. That is no coincidence. Mourinho will now be knocking on Daniel Levy’s door to bring in a new striker in January to bolster his lackluster attack.

2. Watford steady but miss big chance: They are unbeaten in their last six games in the Premier League, the first time they’ve ever done that, but Pearson and Watford will be feeling a little miffed they didn’t make it four wins on the trot. Deeney’s missed penalty kick was the big moment but Watford hung in there, battled hard and although they didn’t create too many clear cut chances, they looked solid and steady. Watford play Villa, Everton and Brighton in their next three ahead of a really tough run of games so they need to get points on the board as quick as they can while they’re in this good form.

3. Tottenham’s defense still shaky: Don’t let the clean sheet fool you. Tottenham were still all over the place at the back. Vertonghen gave away a penalty kick, Alderweireld was bullied by Deeney and their full backs had a tough time locking down Ismaila Sarr and Gerard Deulofeu. With Kane out and goals hard to come by Mourinho will need to rely on his defense to keep plenty of clean sheets if they’re going to have any chance of finishing in the top four or going deep in the Champions League. He won’t be holding his breath.

Man of the Match: Ismaila Sarr – Could be a big blow for for Watford as he seemed to pull his hamstring late on, as the Senegal winger gave Tanganga a torrid outing. His pace, power and clever passing and crosses caused Tottenham problems.


Early on Lucas Moura called for a penalty kick for a handball on Craig Cathcart but played continued and Gerard Deulofeu broke free but his shot was just wide.

Spurs started brightly and looked dangerous through Son but Watford were also a threat on the counter once they got going as Ismaila Sarr blazed over from a good position.

Son’s deflected shot was well saved by Foster and the game turned into an edgy, disjointed affair with plenty of yellow cards dished out.

Dele Alli then did brilliant to play in Moura but Foster saved well as Tottenham’s front four were looking bright and interchanging well as Son smashed a shot over.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Both teams had big chances after the break as Doucoure was played in by Sarr but couldn’t convert, then Dele Alli nodded Son’s superb cross over the bar. Troy Deeney’s shot was deflected wide as the game turned into an open encounter.

Given the touchy nature of the game it was inevitable a melee would break out at one point as Doucoure and Winks were both booked for their part in a large scuffle between both sets of players.

Son then raced clear but smashed over the bar from a tight angle but Watford then passed up a glorious chance to go ahead. Jan Vertonghen was booked for a handball when blocking Gerard Deulofeu’s shot and after a VAR check confirmed the penalty kick, Gazzaniga saved Deeney’s spot kick to keep the scores level.

Sarr pulled up injured which will be a big worry for Watford but Ignacio Pussetto came on to make his Premier League debut and made a big contribution.

Late on Spurs created a couple of half chances as Lamela couldn’t bundle the ball over the line twice, with Pussetto the hero as he cleared, as Watford held on for a point.

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 22

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The Premier League table’s Top Two is back to what we’ve seen for most of the season. Our Club Power Rankings are following suit, and honestly we’d be stunned if they change the rest of the way.

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Look: Liverpool and Manchester City may be the two best clubs in the world, even with and perhaps because of the latter’s injury crisis.

The numbers are backing that up.

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]

20. Norwich City — Can versatile Lukas Rupp help steady the midfield?
Last week: 20
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 4-0 at Man Utd
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Bournemouth

19. Aston Villa — Welcome back Pepe Reina. Enjoy your first proper relegation scrap.
Last week: 17
Season high: 6
Season low: 19
Last match: Lost 6-1 v. Man City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Brighton

18. Bournemouth — If the manager was anyone other than a club legend, he may’ve been fired. That’s a credit to the Cherries, as they wouldn’t be luring anyone better than Eddie Howe, anyway.
Last week: 19
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 3-0 v. Watford
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Norwich City

17. Burnley — Sean Dyche has done enough if similar situations to make us leery of doubting him, but talent-wise this is one of his biggest challenges yet.
Last week: 18
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 3-0 at Chelsea
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Leicester City

16. West Ham United — David Moyes isn’t going to win them all. Beating his longtime club would be a boon.
Last week: 15
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 1-0 at Sheffield United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Everton

15. Newcastle United — There’s something about the spirit in this injury-riddled side, who is somehow getting by without Allan Saint-Maximin and Jamaal Lascelles.
Last week: 16
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Wolves
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. Chelsea

14. Crystal Palace — Speaking of injury crises, the Eagles somehow keep collecting points despite a status nearer to bare bones than adequate.
Last week: 12
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Arsenal
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Man City

13. Watford — Fortune 500 companies ought to call Nigel Pearson and give him some sort of ‘Terry Tate, Office Linebacker’ role.
Last week: 14
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 3-0 at Bournemouth
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Spurs

12. Brighton and Hove Albion — No shame in a 1-0 loss to Everton, but there’s no reward in performing well but dipping into a relegation fight. Three points from Villa on Saturday will bring some comfort.
Last week: 10
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 1-0 at Everton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Aston Villa

11. Arsenal — Looking steadier at the back and due for a big offensive day.
Last week: 11
Season high: 4
Season low: 13
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Palace
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Sheffield United

10. Everton — We may be learning that Marco Silva might’ve alerted the world to Richarlison, but Carlo Ancelotti is capable of optimizing him.
Last week: 14
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Won 1-0 v. Brighton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at West Ham United

9. Southampton — Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s red and white army isn’t welcome on anyone’s fixture list. A win over Wolves puts them in frame for Europa League qualification. Wild swings.
Last week: 13
Season high: 8
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-1 at Leicester City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Wolves

8. Wolves — Suddenly winless in four matches with a total of two goals. Honestly, it’s quite surprising. Are they running out of gas?
Last week: 7
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Newcastle
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Saints

7. Tottenham Hotspur — With Boro in the FA Cup, Watford away, and Norwich City at home, Jose Mourinho has a chance to build confidence before a brutal run of February fixtures including Man City, Villa, RB Leipzig, and Chelsea.
Last week: 6
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Lost 1-0 v. Liverpool
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Watford

6. Sheffield United — Barring a PL-record season from Liverpool, wouldn’t it be reasonable for a UEL-qualifying Wilder to be named PFA Manager of the Year?
Last week: 8
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 1-0 v. West Ham
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Arsenal

5. Leicester City — The Foxes aren’t in danger of a long fall, but Brendan Rodgers could really use a win — gritty or otherwise — at Turf Moor.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Saints
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Burnley

4. Chelsea — Quietly unbeaten in four after their terribly uneven December.
Last week: 4
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Won 3-0 v. Burnley
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Newcastle

3. Manchester United — Here’s a question for United fans given the success of its star loanee at Blades: What’s his price tag? David De Gea is still in his 20s, and Sheffield United’s goalkeeper is playing out of his mind on loan.
Last week: 5
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 4-0 v. Norwich City
Up next: 11:30 p.m. ET Sunday at Liverpool

2. Man City — They’re wonderful. There’s a bit of turnabout is fair play to what could legit wind up as an 85-90 point season falling 10 points shy of a title, given what City did to Liverpool last season. On pace to break their own record for goals in a Premier League season.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 6
Last match: Won 6-1 at Aston Villa
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Crystal Palace

1. Liverpool — The grittiest grits to ever grit, and a lesson in buying into a system. A lot of teams could press the way the Reds do, but getting the players to commit to  it at this religious a rate is insane.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 1-0 at Spurs
Up next: 11:30 p.m. ET Sunday v. Man Utd

PL Sunday Preview: Watford travel to Bournemouth; Aston Villa host City

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures won’t be the busiest of all, but it promises to have some drama as bottom-dwellers Bournemouth and Watford face off, while Manchester City travel to Villa Park.

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Bournemouth vs. Watford — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

It might be difficult to admit, but Nigel Pearson‘s arrival at Watford has done wonders for the club.

The Hornets secured 10 out of the possible 12 points during the festive period, putting the upwards-trending club two points within reach of escaping the drop zone. Throughout that same stretch of four matches, Pearson and company have outscored opponent’s eight goals to two.

The 56-year-old, who last coached Belgium’s Oud-Heverlee Leuven, is implementing an effective and pragmatic 4-2-3-1 system. But perhaps the reason behind the escape trick isn’t solely based on on-field adjustments, but on the emotional investment that the manager is putting forward.

“I’ve been asked a few times already about whether I had still got enthusiasm or the drive or whatever it is to continue to work, and those are the sorts of questions that I’ve asked myself for sure,” he said leading up to Sunday’s match.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think we were capable of getting out of the situation that we’re in, but I can’t ask people to be committed if I’m not committed myself, so all those things are very important to me and I think this club has got a really strong identity and there’s potential for us to rediscover what we are as a football club.

“I do feel attached to being a part of that and trying to rediscover that.”

Eddie Howe‘s Bournemouth, on the other hand, are on the opposite site of the spectrum, falling instead of climbing up the table.

Ravaged by injuries, the Cherries picked up a sole point throughout the same span of four matches. Howe, desperate to animate his team (and supporters), is urging for Dean Court to get loud and hostile again – like in the past.

“Teams used to really fear coming here, a tight ground and a great atmosphere,” Howe said. “We now need that feeling back, which only we can create as a team.

“We’ve had good battles with Watford and I imagine this game will be tight again – our motivation levels have to be higher than theirs.”

INJURIES: Bournemouth — OUT: Danjuma (ankle), King (hamstring), Stacey (hamstring), Brooks (ankle), Daniels (knee) | Watford — OUT: Hughes (groin), Janmaat (knee), Cleverley (calf), Welbeck (hamstring), Femenía (hamstring) Prödl (calf)

Aston Villa vs. Manchester City — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Everything is moving at hyperspeed for Aston Villa, and they probably don’t want it that way.

Days after earning a laudable draw against Leicester City in the semi-final of the EFL Cup, Dean Smith and company host back-to-back champions Manchester City. It wasn’t too long ago that Villa lost Wesley and Tom Heaton to season-ending injuries, either.

Smith recognizes at what speed the challenging hurdles are coming at, but instead preaches for concentration from his players.

“We played the second-placed team in the cup and now we’re playing the team that are third and have won back-to-back titles,” the 48-year-old said. “They have a world-class coach and world-class players, they can afford to spend £50m on a right back, so we know the test.”

“They have had some off days this season – they got beat at Norwich and Wolves – so we must have belief in ourselves, as well as concentration.”

Fresh off a 3-1 victory over rivals Manchester United, the sense is that Manchester City are finally finding their groove again.

Pep Guardiola and his team may be out of contention for a third straight title, but they have a lot to prove with the EFL Cup and Champions League still up for grabs. In fact, Sunday’s match against Villa may well be a preview of the EFL Cup final.

“We have to play all the teams. Sometimes they’re at the top, sometimes in the middle, sometimes at the bottom. It’s a historic club,” Guardiola said prior to Sunday’s match. “They changed their last set-up in the last game. We’ll try to maintain the dynamic we have.”

INJURIES: Aston Villa — OUT: Davis (hamstring), Steer (achilles), Heaton (knee), Wesley (knee), McGinn (foot) | Manchester City OUT: Laporte (knee), Sané (knee) (knee)

Ryan pledges wildfire donation for every save in Premier League

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Australian goalkeeper Mat Ryan is using the work of his peers to contribute to a tragic event back home.

Wildfires are ravaging Australia and are set for an increase in furor to the extent that authorities are asking a quarter-million people to leave their homes.

According to NBC News, combining 2019 fires in California, Brazil and Indonesia still amounts to less than half the burned area in Australia. Twenty-seven people have been killed due to fires stretching over 25.5 million acres of the continent.

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The Brighton and Hove Albion keeper wants to play his part. He announced Friday that he will donate $500 for every save made by Premier League goalkeepers this weekend.

Ryan thanked everyone for their donations and attention so far, but was sure to note that the damage and grief caused by the fires are worse than many realize at this stage.

The Aussie backstop is third in the Premier League in saves with 75 this season, and is the top-rated goalkeeper according to stat service SofaScore.