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PL Sunday preview: Wolves, Man United, Everton, Arsenal in action

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures promise to have a wide-range of action, as Wolves, Manchester United and Arsenal all take the field.

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Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Norwich City  — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBC Gold and NBCSports.com

Wolverhampton Wanderers are heading into Sunday’s match against bottom dwellers Norwich City with fresh, positive inertia.

On Thursday, Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men thumped Espanyol 4-0 in the knockout stages of the Europa League, giving Wolves a much-needed boost of confidence. The club, who has yet to win in Premier League play since January 18, ended a two-game streak without generating a goal against the Spanish side.

Wolves are the clear favorites heading into Molineux Stadium on Sunday. But on the other side stands a well-rested and hungry Norwich, who before going to winter break, showcased class and discipline against Liverpool in their last league showing.

Daniel Farke‘s side are eight points out of the safe zone but time is running out. The sense of urgency is at an all-season high for the Canaries, believers of their under-appreciated strengths.

“They (Wolves) are playing in Europe, they have kept three clean sheets, they have individual quality and it is a huge task,” Farke said. “But I don’t see any easy fixtures at this stage. It is about us. We always have a chance if we are good at our topics.

“People can write us off and say we have no chance to close the gap. But I don’t agree. It is possible.”

INJURIES: Wolves — OUT: Ruben Vinagre (hamstring) | Norwich — OUT: Timm Klose (knee), Sam Byram (hamstring)

Manchester United vs. Watford — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

History and data say Watford, who have never won a league game at Old Trafford, stand no chance against Manchester United on Sunday.

But if one victory inspired a mostly-lethargic Hornets this season under Nigel Pearson it was the 2-0 win over United at Vicarage Road. The second-to-last side went on a six-match unbeaten streak following the said victory. It brought the club back to life, lifting them out of the bottom three.

Watford have since faltered and dropped back below the red line, but Pearson promises to stick to his philosophical guns.

“We approach every game in a very similar way and that is to try and be as positive as we can,” he said. “We’ll go out there and we’ll do what we can to win the game, we’ve not changed our approach, it’s just that results sometimes change how people perceive things.”

United will certainly look different, as Odion Ighalo is expected to make his home debut against his former club following his arrival in earlier this month.

United, who stand in the seventh spot with 38 points, have a clear window of opportunity to surpass fifth-place Tottenham with a victory. Prior to Sunday’s match, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer addressed questions regarding consistency.

“It is team selection – you’ve got to maybe rotate in Europe like we’ve done, then maybe go back to what we were at Chelsea this week,” Gunnar Solskjaer said. “I feel that Bruno [Fernandes] and Odion [Ighalo] coming in will get more goals in the team. That’s been lacking. The games we’ve lost – West Ham, Burnley, Palace, Bournemouth – we’ve had chances but we haven’t scored goals.”

Perhaps Ighalo could finally contribute towards a win at Old Trafford with Watford jerseys on the field.

INJURIES: Manchester United — Paul Pogba (ankle), Axel Tuanzebe (thigh), Marcus Rashford (back) | Watford — OUT: Daryl Janmaat (knee), Tom Cleverley (match fitness)

Arsenal vs. Everton — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Subplots reign supreme ahead of Everton’s visit to the Emirates.

Mesut Ozil, who missed the Gunners’ 1-0 Europa League victory, and Andres Gomes, 16 weeks after an ankle dislocation and fracture, are both expected to return to action. Meanwhile, Mikel Arteta and Carlo Ancelotti will meet for the first time after being linked to each other’s position before the start of the new year.

Perhaps the most significant one, however – at least to Everton – is that it’s been 24 years since the Toffees won at Arsenal. If they can pull it off this time around, the Liverpool-based side will be one step closer to the European dream.

“We have to be focused on Arsenal,” Ancelotti said. “Then there are very important games after. There’s [Manchester] United, Chelsea, Liverpool. After these four games, we can see what is going on for Europe.”

“This is a really important game against a strong team, away, but we have to have confidence to do our best and try to win. We’ve got 13 games to go and have got ourselves in a decent position,” he said. “It gives us the platform to have a decent season. I think we’ve done okay. We’ve had huge problems over six weeks and fair play to the squad for showing that resilience.”

Everton have picked up 17 points out the 24 possible under the Italian, while Arsenal have only experienced two wins under the Spaniard.

INJURIES: Arsenal — Cedric Soares (knee), Kieren Tierney (shoulder), Callum Chambers (knee), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (knee) | Everton — OUT: Jean-Phillipe Gbamin (thigh)

Newcastle United, Norwich City split spoils at St. James’ Park

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Newcastle United and Norwich City were wasteful with nearly every created chance in a 0-0 draw at St. James’ Park on Saturday.

While the Magpies’ Allan Saint-Maximin joined Norwich’s Emi Buendia in triying to lift the match, it proved too heavy.

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Newcastle sits 10th with 31 points, seven points clear of the drop zone and 13 points ahead of basement-dwelling Norwich City.


Three things we learned

1. Both sides wasteful, but Canaries will be furious: Norwich City has now claimed four of its 18 season points from Newcastle, and it could’ve been six if a lively Teemu Pukki brought his finishing boots. The Canaries may’ve lost their survival hope in not taking three points from the Magpies, who still could’ve scored.

2. Magpies midfield showed why Bruce chased Soumare: Lille midfielder Boubakary Soumare would be Newcastle record-signing Boubakary Soumare had the player accepted the chance to join the Northeast side. Instead, Newcastle again got a servicable but unspectacular days from Isaac Hayden, while new boy Nabil Bentaleb was promising and Sean Longstaff barely improved from a rough few outings. Star power is lacking and Jonjo Shelvey‘s return to health would be big.

3. Newcastle’s defensive core decisive: Federico Fernandez and Ciaran Clark continue to lead the Magpies from the back. They can be brave with their challenges and chances because goalkeeper Martin Dubravka has been tremendous between the sticks. The backs are the reason fortunate Newcastle is 10th and not 18th.

Man of the Match: Fernandez and Tim Krul share the honors, though Norwich new boy Ondrej Duda showed moments of promise despite wasting one of the day’s best chances.


Norwich City looked good early, and both Sam Byram and Teemu Pukki forced fine saves out of Magpies star keeper Martin Dubravka.

It was Tim Krul’s turn, the ex-Newcastle man pushing aside a good Joelinton header and Almiron nodding the rebound wide of the yawning cage.

Pukki was denied a long dribble when Federico Fernandez made a fantastic diving intervention to block the Finnish star’s shot.

American right back DeAndre Yedlin had his best half in ages, winning a dangerous 43rd minute free kick.

A late stoppage-time charge from Newcastle ended with a wasted stoppage time corner.

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A slow start to the second half picked up when Duda caught Isaac Hayden five yards outside the box. Matt Ritchie sailed his effort over the frame.

A Miguel Almiron-led rush ended with Allan Saint-Maximin firing into Krul’s gut in the 59th. Ex-Magpie center back Grant Hanley and Krul combined to stop an ensuing Saint-Maximin cross.

A counter was wasted by Pukki.

Hanley gave away a free kick left center, as Newcastle got a third bite at the cherry. Sean Longstaff hit the wall, and Saint-Maximin forced Krul into a corner-conceding save.

Pukki could’ve had it in the goal when Jamaal Lascelles gave it away, but Dubravka saved it off Ciaran Clark. The Irish defender then cleared a possible own goal off the line before Duda lashed wide of the goal.

Krul had to tip a tame 84th-minute header over the bar, and collected the ensuing corner as the match looked destined for 0-0.

Newcastle new boys Valentino Lazaro and Danny Rose debuted off the bench.

Aston Villa snatch win against Norwich

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Aston Villa beat Norwich City 1-0 at Villa Park on Boxing Day as the hosts secured a massive victory against their relegation rivals in the Premier League.

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Substitute Conor Hourihane‘s strike won it for Villa as Norwich wasted several great chances and the hosts pounced to snatch a massive three points.

The win was Villa’s first in six in the Premier League and moves them on to 18 points for the season, while Norwich stay on 12 points.


3 things we learned

1. Pukki, Norwich left frustrated: Norwich hit the bar, Pukki was denied twice just as he was about to shoot and Villa somehow kept a clean sheet as the Canaries weren’t rewarded for their attacking endeavors. That has been the case on so many occasions this season for Norwich.

2. Villa rally but confidence remains fragile: This was a huge win for Villa in their battle against relegation but they didn’t play well and will be thankful for Tom Heaton who was superb in goal and made three top class saves. Dean Smith‘s side will take the win but their confidence remains extremely low as Grealish’s quick feet and Hourihane’s finish won them the game.

3. Both teams set for relegation scrap: Norwich are now in real trouble at the bottom of the table and Daniel Farke has said all season they know they will be up against it. As for Villa, they are still in trouble despite this win and they now face another monstrous game at the bottom as they play at Watford on Dec. 28.

Man of the Match: Tom Heaton – Pulled off several fine saves to keep a clean sheet, Villa’s first in a month.


In a tense start at Villa Park it was the away side who had an early chance with Todd Cantwell‘s shot on target easy for Tom Heaton to handle.

Aston Villa’s Douglas Luiz lashed towards goal as the hosts struggled to get into the game in the first half.

But Norwich should have taken the lead as Teemu Pukki was played in behind Villa’s defense but took too long to get his shot off and VAR checked for a penalty kick but nothing was given.

Sam Byram then hit the crossbar as his header from a corner almost snuck in, while at the other end Anwar El Ghazi flashed a shot just wide.

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In the second half Alex Tettey thought he had given Norwich the lead but his shot was blocked superbly by Luiz on the line and from the resulting corner Heaton saved Tom Trybull‘s header as Villa survived.

Byram then headed wide at the back post after great work from Max Aarons as Norwich continued to spurn glorious chances.

At the other end Grant Hanley was holding Norwich’s defense together as Villa finally got their act together going forward with Jack Grealish forcing Tim Krul into a save.

Grealish then worked his way into the box and teed up Hourihane who slotted home to send Villa Park wild.

That goal knocked the stuffing out of Norwich as Kortney Hause almost scored a header at the back post.

Norwich did rally late on but Heaton denied them once again as Villa held on for a massive three points even though they were second best for much of the game.

Southampton secure crucial win, beat Norwich

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SOUTHAMPTON — Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s Southampton beat Norwich City 2-1 at St Mary’s Stadium as the hosts held on for a vital win in a proper relegation battle.

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Danny Ings and Ryan Bertrand put Saints 2-0 up and they totally dominated the game until Teemu Pukki struck to set up a nervy finish.

Southampton did hold on to secure back-to-backs wins for the first time since March, which have propelled Southampton out of the relegation zone as they now have 15 points. Norwich remain in 19th are now four points below Southampton.


3 things we learned

1. Local lad Ings on fire: Danny Ings is one of their own, and he is their best hope of staying up this season. Ings has scored 10 goals this season and after a terrible run of injuries, he is fit and firing. Ings grew up a few miles from St Mary’s and he has now scored in Saints’ last four PL games, as they face Newcastle, Villa and West Ham next. If he can keep this run going, Saints can start looking up the table and away from the bottom three.

2. Hasenhuttl’s anniversary celebrated with high press: It has been one year since Hasenhuttl took charge of Southampton and there have been lots of ups and downs. His anniversary was celebrated with the way he wanted to play, as Saints pressed Norwich high in the first half and that won them the game. Hasenhuttl then made smart subs, just like he did in the big win against Watford, to see out the game. The Austrian continues to learn how to do get it done as Saints’ back-to-back wins marked his one-year in charge in style.

3. Cantwell and Pukki are Norwich’s best hope: Cantwell’s runs caused Saints problems and the one decent chance Pukki had he finished it. Norwich’s two stars from this season almost grabbed them a point, but it was too little too late for Daniel Farke‘s men who played without the attacking panache they’ve showed throughout this season.

Man of the Match: Danny Ings – He ran Norwich ragged in the first half and set the tone for Saints’ front line. Ings is on fire, is clinical and aside from his scoring he sets the trap for their high-press. He is Southampton’s talisman.


Southampton started well as they pinned Norwich back but Kenny McLean had the first real chance of the game but he dragged a shot just wide.

At the other end Shane Long was causing problems as his header was on target and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg took an age to shoot when running through on goal.

Southampton took the lead as James Ward-Prowse‘s free kick was flicked in at the near post by red-hot Ings to send St Mary’s wild.

Before the break Norwich tried to get back into the game with Todd Cantwell pulling the strings but at the other end Moussa Djenepo fired just over for Saints. Ings had a shot deflected wide for a corner before the break as the home side continued to look the more dangerous. They doubled their lead from that corner as Long flicked the ball on to Bertrand who made it 2-0.

Hojbjerg forced Tim Krul into a fine stop before the break as the hosts dominated the first half.

At half time Norwich made a double change with Marco Stiepermann and Alex Tettey coming on for Ibrahim Amadou and Tom Trybull as Canaries boss Daniel Farke try to spring his side into life.

A massive moment in the game arrived as Shane Long was clearly pushed in the back by Max Aarons but no penalty kick was given and VAR wasn’t used.

Norwich improved as Pukki came into the game and forced Alex McCarthy to save, then Ings smashed a volley inches wide of the far post.

Pukki then buried his first chance of the game as one ball from Tettey carved open the Southampton defense and the Canaries were back in it.

Cedric smashed a shot on goal which Krul saved as Saints tried to hit Norwich on the break with Nathan Redmond also going close, but the Canaries were dominant in the final minutes of the game.

Sam Byram lashed wide late on as Southampton held on for a vital three points which secured wild scenes at the final whistle.

Norwich City piles more pressure on Silva’s error prone Everton

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Todd Cantwell and Dennis Srbeny scored goals as the Canaries of Norwich City flew away from Goodison Park with all three points with a 2-0 win over Everton on Saturday.

Everton’s defense struggled and its offense couldn’t find finish despite a shot advantage of 18-13 on the day, and manager Marco Silva is surely in trouble as his defense continues to give up massive chances.

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Everton loses its seventh league match and sits 15th with 14 points. Norwich is up to 18th with 10 points.


3 things we learned

1. Mina, Holgate struggle at CB: Both Norwich City goals had Everton’s center backs looking like clowns, and it could’ve been three or four goals had Jordan Pickford not made a couple of very fine stops. He was left for dead on both goals, with Michael Keane seated on the bench. Everton doesn’t give up a ton of shots, but when they do they give up monstrous xG bonanzas.

2. Farke pushes the right buttons: Srbeny entered the day with 26 Premier League minutes spread across five outings, and the ex-Paderborn man only scored twice in parts of two Championship seasons. But he looked like a thoroughbred in scoring with his first touches to put this match to bed.

3. Buendia pulls the strings: Norwich playmaker Emiliano Buendia is having a sensational season veyrr much under the radar, and he helped set up the insurance goal in style. Buendia had two assists against Man City, and Saturday’s helper brings his tally to five. The 22-year-old Argentine is one to watch.

Man of the Match: Onel Hernandez — Denied by an incredible Jordan Pickford save, the Cuban-born German has taken time to get used to the league but was an absolute force over 90 minutes.


Hernandez had the best chance to break open a sleepy first half, but Everton’s Jordan Pickford made an outstanding save to keep the match level.

Teemu Pukki dribbled and bodied off Everton’s two center backs and Cantwell ran into space to beat Pickford for 1-0.

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Sam Byram missed a free header off a corner kick which really should’ve made it 2-0. Would Everton take advantage?

Nope. There were few signs of life outside of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Lucas Digne, and Richarlison, and the Brazilian faded down the stretch.

Emiliano Buendia set up substitute Srbeny for a first Premier League goal to pile pressure on Silva.