Tom Cleverley

Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

PL Sunday preview: Chelsea, Arsenal, Man Utd limping to finish

Leave a comment

Sunday’s three Premier League fixtures will see a trio of top-four hopefuls take the field for the penultimate game of their respective seasons.

The PL’s four Champions League places could be officially awarded by the end of day, or we could wind up with four teams — including third-place Tottenham Hotspur — separated by just two points. Seeing how none of the three have even a single win from any their last three games, the latter might actually be the safer bet.

[ MORE: Liverpool survive Newcastle scare to take PL title race to final day ]

Huddersfield v. Man United — 9 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Manchester United have the longest odds of getting into Europe’s elite competition next season, as the Red Devils (65 points) currently sit sixth and trail fourth-place Chelsea by a full three points.

If Man United can’t beat an already-relegated Huddersfield Town side at John Smith’s Stadium on Sunday — it would be the Terriers’ ninth straight PL defeat — their hopes of finishing fourth won’t be mathematically dead, only realistically so. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer isn’t throwing in the towel just yet.

“I don’t think we can give up until it’s theoretically over, but of course it’s a big mountain to climb,” he said this week. “The end of the season throws up a few marginal decisions, strange results, so anything can happen. We still want to finish the season on a high, and let’s see where that takes us now. Let’s see how many points we can get.”

INJURIES: Huddersfield —  OUT: Aaron Mooy (hip) | Man United  — OUT: Romelu Lukaku (hamstring), Eric Bailly (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Jesse Lingard (knee), Marcus Rashford (shoulder), Phil Jones (knee)


Chelsea v. Watford — 9 a.m. ET, on CNBC and NBCSports.com

Of the three sides in action on Sunday, only Chelsea control their own destiny. The math is simple: any combination of Chelsea points won and Arsenal points dropped to reach five will see the Blues qualify for Champions League.

Maurizio Sarri has made finishing in the top-four a clear priority by resting superstar Eden Hazard (for 60 minutes) in Chelsea’s Europa League semifinal first leg against Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday. The wild card in the race for fourth remains Europe’s “other” competition, as Chelsea and Arsenal are favorites to reach the final later this month in Azerbaijan. The most likely scenario, in that event, is that one of the two will have already clinched a Champions League place and the other’s last pathway to European riches would be to win the Europa League.

INJURIES: Chelsea —  OUT: Callum Hudson-Odoi (achilles), Antonio Rudiger (knee) | Watford  — OUT: Etienne Capoue (knock), Tom Cleverley (fitness)


Arsenal v. Brighton & Hove Albion — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Arsenal (66) is the only side without a single point from the aforementioned last three games, meaning they would have put themselves comfortably in the driver’s seat with even a win and a pair of draws. As things stand, they trail Chelsea by two points.

The Gunners haven’t lost four straight top-flight fixtures since 1995. Fortunately for Unai Emery‘s men, Brighton have taken all of two points from their last seven league games. By playing in the day’s final game, Arsenal will be fully aware of how high three points will take them.

INJURIES: Arsenal —  OUT: Aaron Ramsey (hamstring), Hector Bellerin (knee), Danny Welbeck (ankle), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (suspension) | Brighton  — OUT: Davy Propper (hamstring)

PL Tuesday Preview: Tottenham hosts Brighton, Watford faces Southampton

Leave a comment

Thanks to results from Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea over the past two days, Tottenham didn’t lose any ground to its rivals despite its own loss early on Saturday.

Now, Spurs has a chance to earn points to secure another top four finish and keep one of its rivals out when it hosts relegation-threatened Brighton and Hove Albion. Watford, meanwhile, hosts a Southampton side with three wins in its last five games.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE HERE


Brighton and Hove Albion v. Tottenham — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

This match should have just about everything as both sides will be desperate for all three points. Tottenham can take advantage of Arsenal, Man United and Chelsea’s failure to jump ahead or catch ground with a big win on the road, especially after the big win at Man City in the UEFA Champions League. Heung-Min Son showed that Tottenham fans won’t have to miss Harry Kane too badly as he recovers from another serious ankle injury, and Son will be expected again to score and have a big impact in the attack. The team received a boost as well, with Eric Dier returning to fitness and Hugo Lloris set to return to the lineup this week, if not this weekend.

Meanwhile, down in Brighton it’s been a different story all season. The Seagulls have just 34 points after 34 games, sitting just three points above the relegation zone. Before Saturday’s draw with Wolves, Brighton had lost four straight games in the Premier League and five in all competitions, including in the FA Cup semifinals against Manchester City. Now, with only the Premier League on its mind, Brighton can focus on finding an answer to its defensive and goalscoring woes. After a strong start, Glenn Murray hasn’t scored in seven games, and club-record signing Ali Jahanbakhsh has zero Premier League goals this season. Brighton will take one step closer to Premier League survival with a massive win over Tottenham. With Cardiff City facing Fulham this weekend, it’s crucial for Brighton to receive at least a point to maintain space between it and Cardiff.

INJURIES: Brighton and Hove Albion —  OUT: Davy Propper (hamstring), Anthony Knockaert (suspension). | Tottenham — OUT: Moussa Sissoko (groin), Harry Kane (ankle); DOUBTFUL: Harry Winks (groin); PROBABLE: Hugo Lloris (muscle), Eric Dier (illness)


Watford v. Southampton — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold and NBCSports.com/Gold

While much of the Premier League drama focuses on the top four and the bottom three of the table, there’s quietly a very dramatic race for seventh place, which could still end up with a Europa League berth should Manchester City beat Watford to win the FA Cup (if Watford wins, only the fifth and sixth-placed teams would earn Europa League berths).

Watford is among a small group of four teams all within one point of another that could finish anywhere from seventh to tenth by the end of the season. Watford currently sits tied with Everton in seventh place and is looking for a third win in four Premier League games, though its last two wins were over Fulham and Huddersfield. One aspect Watford will have to work on in this match against Southampton is recording a clean sheet. Watford have conceded a goal in eight straight Premier League matches, their longest run this season without a shutout.

Southampton on the other hand are looking to bounce back from a 3-1 defeat against Newcastle. Like Brighton, Southampton is currently safe but still in a precarious situation, just five points clear of Cardiff and the relegation zone. Ralph Hassenhuttl has done a decent job in securing some breathing room for the Saints in his half-season at the club so far. If Southampton can replicate its form from its April 13 3-1 win over Wolves, in which Nathan Redmond scored a pair and even Shane Long found the back of the net, it will surely help towards Premier League survival. Also working in Southampton’s favor is that it has five wins, five draws and one loss in its last 11 matches against Watford.

INJURIES: Watford —  OUT: Troy Deeney (suspension), Jose Holebas, Tom Cleverley, Domingos Quina and Sebastian Prodl (all knee). | Southampton — QUESTIONABLE: Jannik Vestergaard (injury), Yan Valery (illness), Mario Lemina

Preview and Prediction: 4 Premier League sides meet in FA Cup semifinals

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Four Premier League sides are all that remain in the FA Cup as the semifinals get under way Saturday and Sunday.

Manchester City meets Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday, with Watford v. Wolverhampton to contest the second meeting a day later. The winners of both matches will meet in the final at Wembley Stadium on May 18.

The first match up features Pep Guardiola looking to keep his side in the running for the unprecedented quadruple. In addition to the FA Cup still in play, City has already won the League Cup, trail Premier League leaders Liverpool by two points with a game in hand, and begin Champions League quarterfinals against Tottenham midweek.

For Brighton, the Seagulls have been to one Cup final in the club’s history, back in 1983 when they reached the FA Cup final, losing to Manchester United at Wembley. They fell 2-0 to Manchester City in this season’s only meeting so far, way back in late September in the midst of Man City’s incredible start to the season.

To make matters even more daunting for Brighton, they will have to contend with a near-fully fit Manchester City squad. Other than long-term injuries to Claudio Bravo and Benjamin Mendy, the only injuries for City is a knock to Fabian Delph and a new hamstring injury for Olkesandr Zinchenko. Sergio Aguero is back from his slight knock, but might not start the match.

Prediction: While Brighton is a much different side from when these two teams met back in September, Manchester City is not. They are still as dominant as ever, and the healthy squad has enough players to rotate through the four competitions and still maintain its edge. City wins 3-0.

On Sunday, Watford meets Wolverhampton Wanderers for the second time this season, with the first meeting also back in the fall. Watford won 2-0 in a game that began Wolves’ ugly six-game slide. Wolves will head to Vicarage Road a very different team than on that October day, fighting for a Europa League position and having stunned Manchester United twice over the last few weeks.

Starting Sunday, these two teams will be seeing enough of each other over the final few weeks of the campaign. While they still have a Premier League fixture remaining as well, they’re both battling hard for a Europa League position, separated by just a single point in the table. Winning the FA Cup would go a long way towards easing that burden, but should neither make it, the battle to the finish line will be bitter, and this meeting could be the warm up for that game on April 27 back here at Vicarage Road yet again.

Wolves brings a squad with them that won’t be phased by the bright lights, with the internationally experienced Joao Moutinho and Rui Patricio leading the way along with stars Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota who have Champions League games under their belts. They also have a completely clean bill of health, a valuable asset heading into a pressure-filled run-in to the season. Watford will be without Tom Cleverley due to a hamstring injury, while Roberto Pereyra is a game-time decision after coming off against Fulham.

It’s been a while for both these clubs, with Watford last reaching Wembley in this competition in 1984, their only time having done so. Wolves last made an FA Cup final 1960, and they’ve lost four in a row at this stage.

Prediction: This is a fascinating matchup between two equally talented teams. Wolves has the experience advantage, but Watford is at home. This one goes to penalties after a 1-1 draw, and Wolves keeps its cool and comes out on top in the shootout.

Capoue volley puts Watford into FA Cup quarterfinals

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The 2018/19 FA Cup has its first quarterfinal team in the form of Watford after Etienne Capoue scored a bouncing volley on the stroke of halftime to top Queens Park Rangers 1-0.

Both sides proved wasteful as the 18 total combined shots produced just two on target, but that was all Watford needed to move on in London.

QPR led the corner count with five to Watford’s three, but the Hornets used the set-pieces to earn its goal in first-half stoppage time. Taking a short corner to work the ball onto the left foot of Tom Cleverley, the looping ball into the box found Massimo Luongo, and while his shot struck a teammate, it rebounded right to Capoue standing laterally from the original shot, and he leg-whipped the ball to produce a bouncer that wrong-footed Joe Lumley and found the far corner.

The hosts probably should have been level as regulation wound down, but Toni Leistner’s sliding effort to meet a cross by Darnell Furlong somehow went wide.

Watford’s spot in the quarterfinals is just their fourth appearance this deep in the FA Cup since a three-year stretch from 1985 to 1988 where they made it all three times. However, since 1988, all three appearances in the quarterfinals have seen the Hornets progress to the semis, including in 2016 when they topped Arsenal.

Watford, Burnley scrap to scoreless draw

Leave a comment
  • Burnley has late goal called offside
  • Clarets three clear of 18th
  • Watford 7th with 33 points

Kurt Vonnegut famously wrote that “Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.”

Watford and Burnley flipped that on its ear with plenty of pain and an absence of beauty in a 0-0 draw at Vicarage Road on Saturday.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but this first anecdote does make a fine claim in Vonnegut’s favor.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Watford’s Jose Holebas threw the ball to Tom Cleverley, who passed it back to Holebas. The Greek international than thumped a volley into Cleverley’s stomach.

The hosts were lively from the opening kick, with Troy Deeney and Ken Sema nearly working a ball over the line in the first quarter hour.

Dwight McNeil hit a second half chance to make it 1-0 over the frame, and hit a shot that Chris Wood put home late but was judged to be offside.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]