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PL Preview: Fulham vs. Watford

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  • Fulham has conceded at least 2 goals in its last 9 PL games
  • Watford has lost 8 straight PL matches in London
  • Fulham will become the 15th English team to reach 500 PL games

One team still sorting out the kinks, one team is off to a blistering start.

Fulham hopes to shore things up as the Whites host fourth-placed Watford at Craven Cottage Saturday at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com. The hosts have been porous defensively, with 12 goals allowed through the first five matches of the season, the most in the Premier League.

[ WATCH LIVE: Fulham vs. Watford live on NBCSports.com ]

Still, manager Slavisa Jokanovic has rebuffed calls to set the tactics up more defensively, instead calling on his team to be “more brave” as the season rolls on, pushing forward with the “offense is the best defense” mindset. Jokanovic, who coached Watford to promotion in 2015 but left before Premier League play after failing to agree to a new deal, has been praised for his steadfastness in his tactical style but also criticized for the early results.

Watford took time to find true stability in the Premier League without Jokanovic, finishing one place above relegation last season, but under Javi Gracia the Hornets have sprung to life over the past few weeks. Gracia is the one with stability now, having named the exact same starting lineup for every Premier League game so far, and Watford could become only the fifth English club ever to name the same starting lineup for the first six games of a Premier League season. Gerard Deulofeu and Tom Cleverley are both long-term absentees, while Nathaniel Chalobah is the only real question mark as he recovers from a serious knee injury, and he is likely to return to the squad, Gracia said.

The Fulham squad, on the other hand, is a mess. Captain Tom Cairney is out with an ankle injury, a massive miss for a team that focuses on possession and build-up. American defender Tim Ream is also out with a knee problem, back in training finally but still yet to debut this season after winning the club’s Player of the Season award last year. Without Ream, Jokanovic has struggled to find his best defensive partnership, with Denis Odoi plus new signings Calum Chambers, Maxim Le Marchand, and Alfie Mawson all showing weaknesses. The Whites are also without winger Neeskens Kebano who suffered an ankle injury in a Cup match against Exeter City in late August.

What they’re saying

Fulham manager Jokanovic on his team’s attacking mentality: “People are asking if we can be a little more pragmatic but, for me, being pragmatic is being brave. The brave choice for me is the best way to win the game. I think we are still not brave enough. Why would we be scared, why are we not braver and trusting in ourselves?”

Watford manager Gracia on bouncing back from first loss: “They do not need good results to know the performances have been good and, in this moment, the players are confident they will be able to keep their performance levels up. We will try to keep our style of play, maintain our mentality and be aggressive.”

Prediction

Watford started the season with a bang, but have not kept a clean sheet since the second match of the year. That could pose problems facing a team that loves to push forward, and there should be goals in this match. It will likely end in a 2-2 draw.

PL Sunday preview: Man Utd, Spurs, Arsenal hit the road

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures is chock-full of top-six sides in action, as Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur all look to advance their respective bids to topple this season’s favorites, Manchester City and Liverpool.

[ MORE: What did we learn from PL Saturday, Week 4? ]

Cardiff City vs. Arsenal — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The pressure has eased — even if only ever so slightly — on Unai Emery after picking up his first victory as Arsenal manager last weekend. What the Spaniard could now use is a healthy haul of points from the Gunners’ next seven games, all of which come against non-top-six sides. Up first is a trip to the south of Wales to take on 16th-place Cardiff, a side still seeking its first win (and goal) this season. Emery and midfielder Mesut Ozil have reportedly fallen out with one another, but the manager maintains the story is little more than tabloid fodder.

“Throughout my career I have respect for the media, for newspaper, radio, TV. But there are a lot of people in the media and at not every moment is the information real. It isn’t true, the news. … In this situation with Mesut Ozil, it is clear: he is OK, he has the commitment we want, he is a very important player for us and we want to help him to give us the best performance in each match and each moment.”

As for the Bluebirds, Neil Warnock‘s side is the last remaining team without a goal to their name this season. On the bright side, the two points they have to their name means they’ve kept a pair of clean sheets — in back-to-back games, no less — against Newcastle United and Huddersfield Town.

INJURIES: Cardiff — OUT: Junior Hoilett (groin), Aron Gunnarsson (knee) | Arsenal — OUT: Sead Kolasinac (knee), Laurent Koscielny (achilles), Carl Jenkinson (ankle), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (knee)

Burnley vs. Manchester United — 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

It might be early in the 2018-19 season, but it’s not too early for Jose Mourinho to find himself facing the possibility of being fired should Man United lose away to Burnley a week after losing 3-0 to Tottenham Hotspur. It’s not just Monday’s result, but the overwhelming sense of discontent around Old Trafford that has begun to make Mourinho’s position feel as if it’s untenable. He and his players are saying all of the right things, publicly, ahead of Sunday’s trip to Turf Moor, but it’s not as if anyone has any other choice at the moment.

Luke Shaw, for instance, feels the players must stick together and keep their heads down to right the ship.

“You see a lot of things in the media that go on about what our dressing room is like, but we have a really good spirit, a really good group of lads who want to work and achieve big things here. We have a group of hard workers and amazing talents, everywhere you look on the field. We have got to start taking our chances and I am sure we will start winning games. We have got to pick ourselves back up, keep working hard and we need to pick up points after two losses. We need to win and win in a good way.”

Burnley, on the other hand, are dealing with adversity of their own after failing to qualify for the group stage of the Europa League this week. Now, Sean Dyche‘s men seek their first win of the season, and their first point since opening day. Back-to-back defeats to Watford (3-1) and Fulham (4-2) have dropped the Clarets to 19th place in the league table.

INJURIES: Burnley — OUT: Johann Gudmundsson (hamstring), Steven Defour (calf), Robbie Brady (hastring) | Man United — OUT: Marcos Rojo (undisclosed), Diogo Dalot (fitness), Sergio Romero (fitness)

Watford vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 11 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

At the other end of the table, Sunday also provides an unlikely meeting of unbeaten sides when Watford host Tottenham at Vicarage Road. The Hornets have feasted on bottom-half sides in their first three games, while Spurs landed the first blow of the season amongst the “other” top-six sides vying for Champions League qualification.

While much of the talk about Mauricio Pochettino‘s side has focused on the fact that not a single player was signed this summer — the first such occurrence for a PL club since the summer transfer window began — Monday’s demolition of the Red Devils served as a coming-out party for Brazilian attacker Lucas Moura, a $___-million acquisition who had virtually no impact last season after signing in January. As a well-known former manager in north London might say, getting Moura up to speed with a full preseason behind him has been kind of like a new signing.

Pochettino’s counterpart on Sunday, Javi Gracia, has pushed all of the right buttons thus far, and he’s had to do so when it comes to picking his lineup and substitutes. With such a healthy, deep squad, Gracia might feel this is Watford’s best chance to knock off Spurs for the first time in the PL era. In 12 league meetings spanning two and a half decades, they have just three points to show for their efforts, and haven’t beaten the north London side in league play since 1987.

INJURIES: Watford — OUT: Tom Cleverley (achilles), Younes Kaboul (foot) | Tottenham — OUT: Hugo Lloris (thigh), Heung-Min Son (international duty), Moussa Sissoko (hamstring)

PL Preview: Tottenham vs. Watford

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  • Tottenham Hotspur defender Danny Rose rejoined team training on Saturday and has a chance of returning from a calf injury. Harry Winks (ankle) remains out.
  • Gerard Deulofeu could feature for Watford, having returned to training after an injury at the end of February. Troy Deeney has shaken off an ankle problem, but Roberto Pereyra will have a fitness test. Stefano Okaka and Tom Cleverley are out with thigh injuries, while Nathaniel Chalobah (knee), Younes Kaboul (ankle) and Tommie Hoban (knee) are also sidelined.
  • Tottenham Hotspur are unbeaten in its last 12 matches against Watford in all competitions (W9 D3), since a 3-2 defeat at White Hart Lane in the League Cup in October 1994. 
  • Spurs have scored in each of their last 22 Premier League matches. They last had a longer run of scoring in the top flight in April 1987, with 26 matches.

Tottenham sit just two points above Chelsea in the final UEFA Champions League place in the table as it takes on fellow North London side Watford at Wembley Stadium on Monday afternoon. (Watch live at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com)

Spurs are winless in their last three, with the team patiently waiting for Monday’s game after being knocked out of the FA Cup by Manchester United, 2-1, last week, a bitter pill to swallow as no trophies will be coming to the club yet again.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Watford meanwhile seem to be comfortable on 38 points and in 13th place, a full five points clear of the drop zone, but a win at Wembley would surely ensure the club’s survival for another season.

What they’re saying

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino on getting over FA Cup defeat:

“The most important thing is to never give up and never accept this type of negative situation and work hard for the next opportunity to change that situation. That is how I think and what I believe. It’s always a challenge but it’s so important to work hard and keep going.”

Watford manager Javi Gracia on finishing the season on a high:

“I think the club’s best position in the Premier League was 13th and we have the chance to improve that position,” he said. There are only three games left and I think this is the best motivation for us in this moment, to try to get the best position that the club has ever got. We can do it. If you see the last results we took only two points in the last six games, but we can see in the next three games if we’ll be able to get more points or not.”

Prediction: Tottenham are in a bit of a tailspin lately but playing back in front of a partisan crowd at Wembley, Spurs return to winning ways against an always-fighting Watford side. Tottenham 2-1 Watford

PL Sunday preview: Spurs look to go 3rd; Arsenal holding onto 6th

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Following Liverpool’s loss to Manchester United on Saturday, the door to third place has been left wide open for Tottenham Hotspur. Meanwhile, can Arsenal hold off Burnley for sixth?

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Man United top Liverpool ]

Arsenal vs. Watford — 9:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

It’s been 23 years since Arsenal finished a season outside the Premier League’s top five places (they finished 12th in 1995), a formidable streak which set to end this season as Arsene Wenger‘s men sit sixth, 11 points back of fifth-place Chelsea, ahead of Sunday’s visit from Watford. If the Gunners aren’t careful over the season’s final nine games, they could easily find themselves in seventh, looking up at Burnley, who are only two points back.

Wenger can expect a particularly toxic atmosphere inside the Emirates Stadium on Sunday with Arsenal having lost three straight league games — by a combined score of 6-1 — though he remains unfazed and unmoved by calls for his resignation.

“It’s not the person they hate, they hate the manager who doesn’t deliver the performance,” he retorted this week. “I can make that difference. But I’m just unhappy that we lose the games. I want to win, win with style even, so it’s very ambitious. When we don’t do it of course I’m suffering like everyone else. Arsenal is 30 million people, it’s not the suffering of one person, you want to make 30 million people happy and that’s what you care about.”

Watford, on the other side, have won three of their last four (including two straight) and have risen to the top half of the table. The Hornets have won on two of their last three trips to the Emirates, including in the 2016 FA Cup quarterfinals, and would reclaim ninth place from Everton with another positive result on Sunday.

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Alexandre Lacazette (knee), Hector Bellerin (knee), Nacho Monreal (back), Santi Cazorla (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Sead Kolasinac (ankle), Calum Chambers (thigh) | Watford — OUT: Gerard Deulofeu (foot), Tom Cleverley (hamstring), Tommy Hoban (knee), Nathaniel Chalobah (knee), Younes Kaboul (foot), Jose Holebas (ankle), Christian Kabasele (hamstring)

Bournemouth vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12 p.m. ET, on NBCSports.com

Tottenham must immediately rebound from Wednesday’s Champions League heartbreak at the hands of Juventus and finish the league season in fine form in order to secure a third straight top-four finish, and a second straight season ahead of Arsenal. Despite the defeat to Juve, Spurs enter the weekend as one of the league’s most in-form sides with not only three straight wins, but having dropped just six points during their current 11-game unbeaten run (they were unbeaten in 17 across all competitions before Wednesday).

“Last season, we complained a lot about not being able to compete in the Champions League, but this year we showed in the group stage against Dortmund, Real Madrid and then Juventus that the club is ready to compete,” Mauricio Pochettino said. “The basis is there. Now it’s to keep going and try to be clever and work hard.

“It was tough on Wednesday and the effort was massive, but we need to move on. The Champions League is in the past. Now we need to believe more and compete in the Premier League and FA Cup, two competitions in which we’re alive.”

Bournemouth, meanwhile, are winless in their last three games (two draws) and have slipped to 12th in the table, now just six points (though, still six places) clear of the relegation zone. Spurs’ congested fixture list, which includes an FA Cup quarterfinal clash away to Swansea City next weekend, could lead Pochettino to rotate his starting lineup for Sunday’s game.

“We need in our starting 11, to pick players who are capable to fight and feel fresh,” Pochettino said. “That is now a tough job for us to choose the starting XI to play at Bournemouth.”

INJURIES: Bournemouth — OUT: Tyrone Mings (back), Marc Pugh (ankle),Rhoys Wiggins (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Jordon Ibe (knock) | Tottenham — OUT: Toby Aldeweireld (hamstring)

Watford 2-1 Leicester: Hornets sting Foxes

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  • Leicester without a win in four
  • Watford snap four game losing run
  • Schmeichel OG wins it for Watford

Watford beat Leicester 2-1 at Vicarage Road on Boxing Day as Marco Silva’s side ended a run of six games without a win.

Riyad Mahrez put Leicester ahead but Molla Wague, on his full debut, equalized. Abdoulaye Doucoure’s second half shot was pushed into his own net by Kasper Schmeichel and that’s how it finished.

With the win Watford have 25 points and sit in 10th, while Leicester have 27 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Leicester took the lead in the first half through Mahrez who scored with a header after 37 minutes.

Marc Albrighton‘s cross found Mahrez and the Algerian continued his fine recent form to make it 1-0.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Watford leveled things up right on half time as Wague scored on his first start for the Hornets to give the Hornets the momentum as Richarlison also hit the post as they responded well to going behind.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

The hosts went ahead in the second half in bizarre circumstances.

Tom Cleverley’s free kick found Doucoure at the back post and he squeezed in a shot on goal which saw Schmeichel get the last touch and divert the ball in as he tried to save them.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Late on Leicester sent on plenty of attackers to try and get back in the game but failed to do so with Heurelho Gomes making two superb stops as Watford snapped their run of four-straight defeats with a dogged display.