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Watford break transfer record to sign Sarr

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Watford have smashed their transfer record to sign exciting Senegalese winger Ismaila Sarr, who has signed a five-year contract at Vicarage Road.

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The Hornets are believed to have paid Ligue 1 club Rennes a whopping $35 million for Sarr. The 21-year-old led Rennes to French Cup glory and a deep run in the UEFA Europa League last season, and he stood out at the 2018 World Cup in Russia last summer.

Sarr is a tricky winger who is lethal in the final third and he will strengthen Watford’s attacking options further.

With Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra out wide, plus Troy Deeney and Andre Gray up top, Watford boss Javi Gracia has bought in Danny Welbeck on a free transfer this summer and the arrival of Sarr is a huge statement of intent from the Hertfordshire club.

After reaching the FA Cup final last season and being in and around the top seven of the PL for most of the campaign, Watford will be looking to push for European qualification this season.

Sarr’s arrival underlines that ambition.

LIVE, FA Cup Final: Man City v. Watford

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The FA Cup final takes place on Saturday at Wembley Stadium as Manchester City and Watford do battle (kick off, 12 p.m. ET) for the final domestic trophy of the season in England.

[ LIVE: Follow the FA Cup final ]

If Man City and Pep Guardiola win they will secure a historic domestic treble of trophies, becoming the first team in the men’s game to win all three trophies available to English teams in the same season.

But Watford are more than capable of producing a shock win, with Javi Gracia‘s men possessing a solid defensive unit and the likes of Troy Deeney and Gerard Deulofeu in attack who can cause City problems.

Below are the starting lineups from both teams, as Man City start Gabriel Jesus up front with Sergio Aguero on the bench. Watford start Pereyra, Deulofeu and Deeney in attack and Heurelho Gomes starts in goal in what could be his final game as a professional before retirement.

You can click on the link above to follow live updates from the final, while we will have reaction and analysis from Wembley.


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Season Review: Burnley, Bournemouth, Newcastle, Crystal Palace, Watford

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After looking over the bottom five finishers in the Premier League this season, we look through the next five teams, a smattering of clubs both happy to avoid the relegation scrap and looking to use this finish as a launching pad for the coming campaign.

[ REVIEW: Huddersfield, Fulham, Cardiff, Brighton, Saints ]

Managers in this group also could find themselves candidates for jobs down the road, and teams like Burnley, Bournemouth, and Watford may end up in a battle to keep one of their most prized possessions. How did these five teams perform this year?

Burnley

Finishing position/points total: 15 / 40pts
High point
: Eight straight unbeaten through January.
Low point
: Sitting 19th in early December with just 2 league wins

Our opinion: Burnley had a roller coaster ride this year, but Sean Dyche managed to pick the club up from 19th in early December to finish without worry over the last few months. Nailing the magic 40-point total on the nose, it’s hard to argue with where they finished given the rough first half.Β Β 
Star player
: Chris Wood
Most memorable goal
: Ashley Barnes‘ finish off an exquisite Johan Berg Gudmudsson delivery capped off an eight-match unbeaten run that defined Burnley’s season. They’d go on to lose their next four, but that stretch combined with a solid finish to the campaign gave them life and avoided a relegation battle.


Manager grade: Sean Dyche: B
Hopes for next season
: Keeping Burnley up will be the consistent goal until the club can build a financial base to challenge for a top half finish. Sean Dyche managed to meet the goal relatively comfortably this season after a rough start to the campaign, but how much longer can they keep hold of him?

Bournemouth

Finishing position/points total: 14 / 45pts
High point
: Sitting 6th in mid-October with 6 wins in the first 10 games
Low point
: A 7-game stretch through the holidays conceding 20 goals and earning just 4 points

Our opinion: It was a solid season for Bournemouth, although without the fabulous start to the season, things may have ended quite differently. After the first 11 games where lost just twice, the club picked up 25 points over a 27-match span, a relegation-type pace. Eddie Howe is a good manager who may end up at a bigger club sooner rather than later, but Bournemouth’s consistent inability to defend despite good back-line talent will give a potential suitor pause.
Star player
: Ryan Fraser
Most memorable goal
: This strike by David Brooks from outside the box helped Bournemouth to a big 2-0 win over Brighton when the Cherries were beginning to nosedive down the table.


Manager grade: Eddie Howe: C
Hopes for next season
: Bournemouth is about where they’re going to be, and survival is the perennial goal. They may be a candidate for the drop once again, but with as much firepower as they have, it shouldn’t be on the cards for them. An improvement at the back would be helpful over the summer.

Newcastle United

Finishing position/points total:
High point
: A 2-1 win over eventual champions Man City in late January, Pep Guardiola‘s final loss of the season.
Low point
: No wins in the first 10 matches of the season.

Our opinion: Rafa Benitez stumbled early after another summer of penny pinching from Mike Ashley, but he recovered enough to lift Newcastle out of the relegation battle, and convinced Ashley to splash the cash for Miguel Almiron in the winter, a move that proved positive until Almiron got hurt. Benitez is arguably the most valuable asset at the club and he did well to keep this squad out of the bottom three.
Star player
: Ayoze Perez is the team’s star goalscorer but Matt Ritchie is the man who makes the team tick.
Most memorable goal
: Matt Ritchie’s late penalty to beat Man City gave Newcastle its most famous win of the season, but Fabian Schar’s absolute howitzer to take the lead over Burnley in February is easily the stunner of the year for Newcastle. That win capped off a 6-match stretch that included four wins and just three goals conceded.


Manager grade: Rafa Benitez: A-
Hopes for next season
: If Benitez is to be believed, Newcastle has European potential, but it will take a few years to realize that potential. Should they keep Benitez around, Newcastle should be a top half contender if Ashley can be convinced to open the wallet this summer.

Crystal Palace

Finishing position/points total: 12 / 49pts
High point
: Five wins in seven to end the season, including a 3-2 win over Arsenal
Low point
: Eight games without a win through October and November

Our opinion: Aside from the brutal start to the year which saw Palace gain just nine points from their first 13 games, Crystal Palace had a very good campaign – it would have likely featured a top-half finish with a better start to the year. Ugly losses still dot the season occasionally (this is the Premier League, after all, nothing is guaranteed), but Hodgson has built this side into a consistent performer week in and week out.
Star player
: Wilfried Zaha
Most memorable goal
: Andros Townsend scored a ripper against Burnley (who seem to have been victimized plenty by great goals this season) but there is no question that his volley against Manchester City is Crystal Palace’s best of the campaign and maybe the entire Premier League this season.


Manager grade: Rod Hodgson: B-
Hopes for next season
: Crystal Palace always has the potential to end up sucked into the relegation scrap with a bad run of form, as the start to this season showed, so staying up should always be priority #1. However, with that in hand, the club should be challenging for top-half finishes if they would like to continue growing. 53 goals conceded is less than all but one club below them in the table, meaning the defense performed well, and if they can attack like they did during the run-in this season (11 goals scored against Arsenal, Cardiff, and Bournemouth) they’ll be poised to make that happen.

Watford

Finishing position/points total: 11 / 50pts
High point
: Beating Tottenham for its fourth straight win to start the season.
Low point
: Losing six of nine to finish the season.

Our opinion: At its best, Watford is a fantastic group that absorbs pressure and counters with vicious intent. At its worst, it gives up four goals to Bournemouth or West Ham. Overall, Watford did quite well this season, and while the four straight to start the season set lofty expectations that were unsustainable, finishing 11th in the Premier League is a laudable accomplishment even with the disappointing finish to the campaign.
Star player
: While Troy Deeney, Andre Gray, and Gerard Deulofeu shared the goalscoring this season, defender Craig Cathcart logged more minutes than anyone on the squad this season and bagged the winner against Tottenham early in the season.
Most memorable goal
: Watford bagged a host of good goals this season, but this brilliant solo run from Roberto Pereyra is the best of the bunch.


Manager grade: Javi Gracia: B+
Hopes for next season
: Somehow, Watford made finishing 11th appear disappointing, proof that they were strong for most of the long season. Watford even challenged for a spot in Europe before being outlasted by Wolves, so fans will hope that next season they can finish the deal and earn a top-7 spot.

Chelsea stay top-four course with win over Watford (video)

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  • Chelsea go 3rd in PL, all but secure top-4 finish
  • Loftus-Cheek, Luiz started 2H with quick-fire double
  • Higuain added the 3rd (75′)

Chelsea hit Watford for three second-half goals and 3-0 victory at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, sending themselves to third place in the Premier League in the process.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

With one game left to play, the Blues (71 points) have all but secured their place in the top-four and assured themselves of a return to the Champions League.

Sunday’s game didn’t start off so brightly for Chelsea, as Watford were first to threaten, but Kepa Arrizabalaga made one of the best saves of the season to deny Troy Deeney in the 8th minute. Jose Holebas’ cross came in from the left side and Deeney rose highest to get his head to the ball and loop it across the face of goal, but Arrizabalaga was quick to react and palm the ball away at full-stretch.

N'Golo Kante, the engine and master of Chelsea’s midfield, was forced off by an injury immediately thereafter.

Chelsea had an obvious claim for a penalty kick in the 30th minute, when Kiko Femenia wrapped his arms around David Luiz and drove him down to the ground. It was the Blues’ most threatening moment in the first half.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The second half started much better, however, as Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who came on to replace Kante, broke the deadlock after just three minutes. Eden Hazard whipped a cross into the box and it was Loftus-Cheek who beat everyone else in the air and headed the ball down to beat Ben Foster.

Barely two minutes later, the Blues had their second courtesy of Luiz. Hazard sent the corner kick to the top of the six-yard box where Luiz, who lost his marker with terrifying ease, was completely unmarked and applied the finish.

Chelsea so nearly made it 3-0 with a pair of golden opportunities in the 58th minute. Pedro cut inside onto his left foot and looked to have beaten Foster to the far post, only to be denied at the very last moment. The rebound fell to Loftus-Cheek, but he put his follow-up effort inches wide.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Gonzalo Higuain put the game to bed with a deft chip over Foster in the 75th minute. Pedro slipped a perfectly weighted through ball to Higuain, but there was still so much to be done from there. Foster was rushing out quickly and Higuain had the tightest of angles with which to work. The only path to goal was up and over.

Chelsea will wrap up their campaign with a trip to Leicester City next Sunday, while Watford will host West Ham United at Vicarage Road.

PL Tuesday Preview: Tottenham hosts Brighton, Watford faces Southampton

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


Watford v. Southampton β€” 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: WatfordΒ β€”Β  OUT: Troy Deeney (suspension), Jose Holebas, Tom Cleverley, Domingos Quina and Sebastian Prodl (all knee). | SouthamptonΒ β€” QUESTIONABLE: Jannik Vestergaard (injury), Yan Valery (illness), Mario Lemina