Will Hughes

Ayew the hero for Palace against Watford

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Crystal Palace beat Watford 1-0 at Selhurst Park on Saturday in a tight, feisty clash between two teams who know each other very well.

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Jordan Ayew was once again the hero for Crystal Palace as he rifled home a fine goal in the first half and Roy Hodgson‘s side held on for the all three points thanks to a third-straight shutout and 1-0 win. Nigel Pearson‘s Watford huffed and puffed but remain in the relegation scrap after they failed to build on their incredible win against Liverpool last weekend.

With the win Palace move into 10th place and have 40 points, as they are just five points off the top four. Watford remain in 17th place and only out of the relegation zone on goal difference.


3 things we learned

1. Ayew having a sneaky good season: Eight goals in the Premier League is his best-ever return and Ayew has been so important to Palace, especially with Wilfried Zaha not hitting top form week in, week out this season. Ayew isn’t the most natural finisher in the world but he works hard and is taking a lot of the chances Palace create for him. He has now scored one goal on eight occasions this season and on each occasion he has scored Palace are unbeaten with six wins and two draws.

2. Watford’s inconsistency infuriating: They have now beat Liverpool, Wolves and Man United since Nigel Pearson arrived but are still in the thick of the relegation battle. Nigel Pearson’s Watford just can’t string together a run of wins against teams just above them.

3. Hodgson underrated: The 72-year-old Palace coach has led them to 11th and 12th place finishes in the last two seasons and they are now 10th. Does he get the credit he deserves? Probably not. Hodgson signed a one-year contract extension this week and after not being given funds to strengthen in January and after Aaron Wan-Bissaka was sold in the summer, you have to applaud the job he has done. What you see is what you get with Hodgson. His teams are organized and grind out wins. Palace may not be the best team to watch but they are getting it done.

Man of the Match: Christian Benteke – So often a scapegoat, the center forward held the ball up, almost scored with an acrobatic effort and brought out the best in Ayew and Zaha around him. Benteke gets plenty of stick but he is finally playing regularly and even if the goals aren’t flowing he provides a focal point to Palace’s attack.


Abdoulaye Doucoure almost squeezed home a shot at the near post early on and from a corner soon after Watford caused all kinds of problems but Crystal Palace cleared.

Will Hughes then dragged a shot wide as Watford came flying out of the traps and were obviously buoyed by their win against Liverpool.

Palace then took the lead with a superb goal as Ayew smashed home from the edge of the box after a lovely flowing move down the left which saw Zaha play in Benteke who found James McArthur to assist Ayew.

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The game was very feisty with plenty of flash points, most involving Wilfried Zaha, as Watford and Etienne Capoue in particular targeted the Palace winger.

Zaha responded by going on a mazy run and forced Ben Foster into a fine stop down low as Watford’s goalkeeper stood tall.

Troy Deeney forced Vicente Guaita into a fine stop after his powerful effort from outside the box, then Christian Benteke sent one of his trademark acrobatic efforts inches wide.

Deulofeu out for season in massive blow to Watford

Gerard Deulofeu
Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images
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As big of a win as Watford’s 3-0 defeat of Liverpool was on Saturday, they suffered a loss of similar magnitude.

Gerard Deulofeu tore a meniscus and ruptured an ACL and will miss the rest of the season and likely the start of next.

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“We wish him all the best, we wish his family well,” said club captain Troy Deeney. “Unfortunately this is the game that we play. It’s going to be a real tough one and we wish him well. I said to him at half-time ‘we’re going to win this for you’, and thankfully we did, thankfully I’m a man of my word.”

Deulofeu had four goals and five assists in just over 2,100 minutes this season, chipping in 1.2 tackles and .9 interceptions per contest.

He’s also averaging 1.6 key passes and 2.2 successful dribbles per game (all stats via WhoScored). Both of those figures are top 20 in the Premier League.

Deulofeu is a huge loss for the Hornets, who will need more magic from Ismaila Sarr and consistency from Roberto Pereyra. Will Hughes has impressed as well but there are few playmakers like Deulofeu in the league, let alone Watford.

The good news is that Watford is currently outside the drop zone on goal differential, and still face five bottom half sides.

Liverpool’s unbeaten run ends in blowout

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Ismaila Sarr and Watford battered sorry Liverpool 3-0 at Vicarage Road on Saturday to stop two key aims of the Reds’ historic season.

The impending Premier League champions will not go down in history as one of England’s only unbeaten teams, and also fall short of setting a new record for consecutive league wins.

The Reds also come five matches short of Arsenal’s record for consecutive unbeaten matches in Premier League history (49).

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Man City and Liverpool will live together (forever?) with 18-consecutive league wins.

Watford needed this win badly, and Nigel Pearson‘s men pull out of the drop zone with 27 points.

Liverpool still leads the league by 22 points over Manchester City.

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Three Four things we learned

1. A beautiful run ended by a messy performance: The 2019/20 Liverpool team may go down as the best in the history of England and, perhaps, the world. Let’s get that out of the way, as well as this: You’d hate to be on the Reds’ fixture list in the coming weeks.

The Reds had the ball a lot late as Watford closed up shop, but they had little to no foothold in the game from moment No. 1. Outshot 14-7 with just one shot on target, it was the variety of errors that killed them.

Jurgen Klopp‘s men will still win the league, and the manager was classy in greeting Pearson and assistant Shakespeare with a smile and hug before the final whistle. He’s an incredible ambassador for the club, who are still are favorites to have a claim as one of the best teams of all-time. But they won’t go unbeaten. And they’ll (probably) forever share the longest domestic win streak with their era rival. Fitting, fair, but frustrating for the Reds.

2. Let down by the brightest star: In a way befitting the shock of the occasion, the biggest errors of Liverpool’s history-ruining loss came for its best player.

Both Virgil Van Dijk and Andy Robertson were out to lunch as the Reds took the lead, a seemingly harmless ball bouncing over Dejan Lovren to Abdoulaye Doucoure. The Frenchman then got a pass beyond Van Dijk with ease, and Robertson had no handle on Sarr as the winger punched a shot into the back of the goal.

It was even worse for Van Dijk on the second, as he was asleep to Sarr’s danger after a 50-50 battle on the sideline led to a loose ball.

 

3. Sarr the star: Ismaila Sarr had two goals and an assist, but he could’ve scored five as the Reds were wide open and chasing the match. In 79 minutes, the danger man delivered scares across the soon-to-be champs back four. He now has five goals and four assists in his first Premier League season, but few will stand out more than the two and one on Saturday.

4. Dark cloud looms over incredible win: Watford needed this win badly, and it qualifies as a major surprise that the Hornets went on to win after a scary injury to star man Gerard Deulofeu.

The Spaniard has keyed Watford’s run from the depths of the table, and his absence will call into question the club’s hopes of staying in the top flight.

Man of the Match: Sarr.


Gerard Deulofeu had the match’s first chance, dribbling around Trent Alexander-Arnold and Fabinho to fizz a shot wide of the near post.

Watford saw a shot from Deulofeu sail wide, and Fabinho broke up a Will Hughes chance in the 12th minute.

The Hornets continued to threaten against off-kilter Liverpool, with Doucoure and Deulofeu especially busy.

Watford’s heart would’ve sunk when Deulofeu’s leg appeared to lock up in a 50-50 with Virgil van Dijk. He was stretchered off the pitch.

An extraordinary sequence saw Alisson Becker bungle the ball upon Troy Deeney pressure, but Liverpool was able to thwart the chance.

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The second half again saw Watford ready to roar, Roberto Pereyra setting up Sarr for a shot that Alisson pushed over the bar.

Moments after Liverpool failed to capitalize on a mess in the Watford box, the Hornets took the lead.

Sarr darted in front of Andy Robertson after Abdoulaye Doucoure got the better of a sleepy Virgil van Dijk.

Van Dijk was asleep again when Deeney belted a ball off the sideline that drifted past him and onto the path of Sarr, who beat Alisson 1v1.

Then came the third, as Sarr raced past the Liverpool back line and this time cued up Deeney for a goal.

Watch Live: Brighton v. Watford

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Brighton and Hove Albion host Watford on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) at the Amex Stadium.

The Seagulls and Hornets are embroiled in a relegation scrap and this is what you call a six-pointer in the Premier League.

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Brighton have played lovely stuff all season long under new manager Graham Potter but a lack of clinical edge has seen them slump towards the bottom three and are just two points off the top zone.

Nigel Pearson had a huge impact early on at Watford but they’ve lost two in a row in the Premier League and are two points from safety heading into this game.

In team news Brighton start with Glenn Murray up top once again with the veteran striker fresh from signing his new contract. Dan Burn returns from injury for the Seagulls as he is one of four players to come into the starting lineup alongside Shane Duffy, Solly March and Ezequiel Schelotto. Potter has gone for a 3-4-3 formation.

Watford make one change as Will Hughes comes in for Nathaniel Chalobah in central midfield.


LINEUPS

Premier League Preview: Watford v. Tottenham Hotspur

Premier League Preview: Watford v. Tottenham Hotspur
Premier League Preview: Watford v. Tottenham Hotspur
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Watford begins a run of three matches in five days with a visit from Tottenham Hotspur to Vicarage Road on Saturday (Watch Live at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The resurgent Hornets have climbed out of the Bottom Three under new boss Nigel Pearson. The challenge now comes in the form of a postponed FA Cup replay means they face Spurs, Aston Villa, and Tranmere Rovers by Thursday.

And if the Hornets beat Tranmere, they host Manchester United three days later.

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“The planning’s done for the week,” Pearson said. “But outside of that we’ve got to also be prepared for variables we don’t know about at the minute and that would be potential injuries and anything else and it makes it even clearer that I’m not going to send the strongest side to play Tranmere.”

Spurs will welcome any advantage, as Jose Mourinho’s side is winless in three league matches and played a replay with Middlesbrough on Tuesday.

Tottenham has dropped nine points back of the Top Four and four back of fifth place Manchester United. The club is waiting on several transfer issues, including wantaway Christian Eriksen and the absence of suitable fill-in for injured Harry Kane.

Mourinho said there’s been no offer yet from Inter Milan for Christian Eriksen, and that Giovani Lo Celso‘s loan will likely be made permanent.

How Mourinho uses new loanee Gedson Fernandes will be interesting, as the Portuguese midfielder may start for his countryman.


Injuries/suspensions

Watford: OUT — Tom Cleverley, Kiko Femenia, Danny Welbeck. QUESTIONABLE — Will Hughes.

Spurs: OUT — Moussa Sissoko, Harry Kane. QUESTIONABLE — Ben Davies, Tanguy Ndombele, Hugo Lloris


Probable lineups

Watford: Foster, Masina, Cathcart, Dawson, Mariappa, Capoue, Chalobah, Deulofeu, Doucoure, Sarr, Deeney.

Spurs: Gazzaniga, Aurier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Rose, Aurier, Winks, Fernandes, Son, Lucas, Dele.


What they’re saying

Nigel Pearson on the Tranmere postponement: “To get up there and find their kit man hadn’t bothered setting out their kit because he knew it would be off is a bit of a frustration for us because we travelled up and a lot of our fans had got to Northampton by the time that they found out, so it is a frustration and it adds on to what’s already a hectic week next week.”

Jose Mourinho on loan signing Gedson Fernandes: “He’s a kid that can play different positions in midfielder, even wide on the right if we need. We got him for his multi-functionality. He’s what I used to call a special loan. He’s not a three month loan and goodbyes. One-and-a-half year loan when he’ll have time to develop, and who knows if he doesn’t stay here for a number of years.”


Prediction

Spurs get a bit of relief and Watford a mild reality check in a 1-0 decision.