The rivalry between these two teams has bubbled up over the past few years and even though the main protagonist, Wilfried Zaha, isn’t fit and playing there will still be a spicy atmosphere at Vicarage Road.
Watford have beat Palace 2-1 in both of their Premier League encounters this season, but Palace’s strong away form will make this a tense quarterfinal.
In team news Watford have named their strongest possible lineup, with veteran goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes coming in to start in goal.
Manchester City vs. Southampton — 10 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Pep Guardiola‘s side has already won twice this week — knocking off fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur on Monday, followed by a League Cup round of 16 triumph over Fulham on Thursday — and now they turn their attention to a drastically less tricky challenge in relegation-threatened Southampton, who entered the weekend stuck in 16th place. Yet again, Man City will be without world-class midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, who suffered another knee injury against Fulham in just his second game back from his last knee injury. Alas, City have been incomprehensibly dominant without De Bruyne, who is yet to start a PL game this season, to the tune of a +24 goal differential after 10 games. Despite such a strong start, City are yet to put any distance between themselves and the chasing pack. Liverpool went top of the table with their draw away to Arsenal on Saturday, and the two title contenders appear destined to battle one another for the next seven months.
On the other side, it’s been more than two months since Saints last won a league game (Sept. 1), their only victory in PL play this season. What’s worse, it’s been nearly as long (more than five full games) since they last scored a goal. On the bright side, a pair of 0-0 draws have seen Saints pick up a point in back-to-back games. Manager Mark Hughes is hoping that defensive solidity will be a foundation to build upon on Sunday.
“It’s back to back clean sheets, which reinforces our feeling that defensively we’re in better shape than we have been,” he said this week. “That will help us and give us confidence at the top-end of the pitch to really go for teams because we should know that we have got good defensive capabilities.”
Maurizio Sarri is yet to taste PL defeat as Chelsea manager, and he’ll look to continue his fine start to life in England when 14th-place Palace visits Stamford Bridge. While his side performed well on one end of its League Cup victory over Derby County this week, he wasn’t all too pleased with how they defended against the Championship side.
“In the last match I have to say Derby played a very good match,” he said. “We played well in the offensive phase, but a lot of mistakes in the defensive phase. It’s clear we need to improve. I am used to having problems like this in the first months. In Burnley I saw a very good performance in the defensive phase. Three days after I saw a lot of mistakes. It means we are a not a continuously solid team at the moment. It’s dangerous.”
Palace are yet another side starving for goals ahead of the weekend, as they’ve played 395 minutes (Oct. 1 – all competitions) without finding the back of the net, and are winless (two draws) in their last five league games. Sunday will see Ruben Loftus-Cheek up against his former loan home, for whom he excelled and earned himself a place in the regular rotation at Chelsea.
Crystal Palace vs. Arsenal — 9:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
It’s been a while since Arsenal last dropped points — let alone lost a game. You have to go back to the second week of the PL season to find the most recent blemish on Unai Emery‘s otherwise sparkling record. No side in Europe can claim a better ongoing run of results (11 straight wins, by a combined score of 31-9 – all competitions). The Gunners will look to make it a dozen wins in a row on Sunday, when they visit Selhurst Park. The club’s longest-ever winning streak is 14 games — achieved in the fall of 1987. Wins over Palace, Blackpool (League Cup) and Liverpool would see Emery and Co., match the record.
Things couldn’t be going much worse for Palace at the moment. Roy Hodgson‘s Eagles have lost three straight league games (winless in four) and slipped to 15th in the PL table, now just two points clear of the relegation zone, during the slide.
Chelsea remain one of three unbeaten PL sides (Liverpool and Manchester City) ahead of Sunday’s trip to Turf Moor. Maurizio Sarri‘s side has, however, dropped points in three of their last four games (draws with West Ham United, Liverpool and Man United). That mini-skid has seen the Blues fall five points back of leaders Liverpool (and potentially City, who play on Monday, as well). Eden Hazard has been arguably the PL’s best player through nine games, but the Belgian superstar’s status is unknown due to a lingering back injury suffered during last week’s 2-2 draw with Man United.
Speaking of Belgian centerpieces, midfielder Steven Defour is back and available for the Clarets after nine months out following knee surgery. Likewise, winger Robbie Brady is expected to be available for selection for the first time in 10 months following a knee operation of his own. The two represent a different class of players capable of delivering Burnley back into the PL’s top-half to build upon last season’s seventh-place finish.
Manchester United vs. Everton — 12 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com
Seven points — and five places in the table — currently separate Man United from the top-four, thanks to the Red Devils’ dreadful start to the season (just four wins, and three losses, in the first nine games). European competition hasn’t treated them much better, as they were completely outplayed and beaten by Juventus at Old Trafford this week. Jose Mourinho isn’t expected to have Alexis Sanchez or Jesse Lingard to pick from on Sunday, meaning Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford should start by default. Martial bagged a brace in the draw with Chelsea, while Rashford hasn’t scored a league goal since Sept. 29; it’s been even longer for Lukaku, whose last PL tally came on Sept. 15.
On the other side, Marco Silva has Everton playing some great soccer late: three straight wins, by a combined score of 7-1. Even better, six of the seven goals have been scored by Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Bernad, Theo Walcott or Cenk Tosun, the Toffees’ five most important attacking players. With summer signings Andre Gomes and Yerry Mina making the startling lineup and bench for last week’s victory over Palace, Silva has everyone around Goodison Park feeling exceedingly hopeful ahead of Sunday’s trip to Old Trafford.
On one side, there’s 11th-place Everton who have won back-to-back PL games for the first time this season. On the other side, there’s 14th-place Crystal Palace who enter Sunday’s trip to Goodison Park on the back of two straight league defeats.
The Toffees spent big in the summer transfer window, but a bit of patience was required before the return on their investment was realized. Following a comprehensive demolition of Fulham three weeks ago, and a late win away to Leicester City last week, first-year Everton manager Marco Silva is increasingly pleased with the progression his side is making.
“We are looking more like a team – more compact, more solid in some moments, and staying focused during the game. It is up to us to continue in this way, getting better every time, because we have different problems on Sunday with a different opponent, too. We have to be able to find solutions to score and win the match.”
The worst part about Palace’s recent slide is the opponents who have resigned them to defeat: Bournemouth and Wolverhampton Wanderers, a pair of sides likely to finish in the bottom half come the end of the season. Even worse, Palace’s do-everything superstar Wilfried Zaha faces a late fitness test in order to be available for selection after injuring his groin while on international duty for Ivory Coast this week. Palace are winless (0W-4D-3L) in their last seven games against Everton.
*Pretty much everyone really could use a striker. Apologies in advance.
Jack Wilshere‘s return to form and fitness helps their center midfield, but Arsene Wenger seemingly hasn’t found his answer in the middle of the park whether the addition of Mohamed Elneny in the past or Granit Xhaka this season. Laurent Koscielny‘s surprising recent struggles also show just how few answers the club has behind him at center back.
Need to find that leading scorer either Jermain Defoe or Joshua King was supposed to be, or find the playmaker who puts them in position to start burying goals again.
Brighton and Hove Albion
Offensive players of any kind, as the league’s worst offense has allowed teams to focus on Pascal Gross.
A versatile midfielder who can play centrally or on the left would solve multiple problems. Center back insurance would help, too.
Cheekily, we’d suggest bringing some of its many stars back from loan, as Kurt Zouma (Stoke) and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Crystal Palace) have been mighty influential at their clubs. It’s more about personage than positions with Chelsea, as Alex Sandro of Juventus has been mentioned often. Will Ross Barkley change his mind about the Blues, or vice versa?
The Toffees have made no secret of their need for a finishing center forward. No other team needs a positional upgrade more than Everton at CF.
An upgrade at center back seems the prime need for David Wagner‘s men.
A center back to pair with Harry Maguire, and depth down the right side. Both become secondary to playmaker if Riyad Mahrez leaves the King Power Stadium.
Virgil Van Dijk solves a lot, but the club could stand to upgrade the position beyond him and Joel Matip. Instead, Jurgen Klopp might buy more attackers. An alternative to Jordan Henderson would be nice, but would also be superfluous with Naby Keita arriving in the summer.
Center forward depth in the short-term with Gabriel Jesus injured, and left back cover might be on Guardiola’s mind. Another center back seems likely to arrive this month or this summer.
Jose Mourinho could add anywhere outside of goalkeeper and his attacking trident. Left back remains a priority, especially if he sells Luke Shaw.
The Magpies need a more effective Premier League striker than Joselu or Dwight Gayle, an improved left back, and a box-to-box center midfielder. Rafa Benitez will reportedly hunt for a goalkeeper, too.
Still need a center back, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Mauricio Pellegrino attempt to find a solution for any spot besides the one occupied by Oriol Romeu.
The Potters have allowed a league-worst 47 goals, and it’d be worse without Jack Butland. A left back is needed, as is either a defensive mid or right back depending on where they want to deploy Geoff Cameron (which means they also could use cover for both in case injury).
With a new manager you can pick a position, and Swans may want to improve it. The priority will be players who can produce goals, as Fernando Llorente and Gylfi Sigurdsson were not adequately replaced.
Another winger? Spurs may have the least amount of needs in the league outside of Man City.
Full backs might be top of the list.
West Bromwich Albion
The Baggies have to find a better way to utilize big forward Salomon Rondon, who is quite gifted. Maybe it’s a partner striker, maybe a playmaker.
West Ham United
Up the middle, besides forward. The Hammers will look to address center back and center midfield. They are alright out wide and across the top.