Daniel Farke

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PL Sunday preview: Wolves, Man United, Everton, Arsenal in action

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures promise to have a wide-range of action, as Wolves, Manchester United and Arsenal all take the field.

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Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Norwich City  — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBC Gold and NBCSports.com

Wolverhampton Wanderers are heading into Sunday’s match against bottom dwellers Norwich City with fresh, positive inertia.

On Thursday, Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men thumped Espanyol 4-0 in the knockout stages of the Europa League, giving Wolves a much-needed boost of confidence. The club, who has yet to win in Premier League play since January 18, ended a two-game streak without generating a goal against the Spanish side.

Wolves are the clear favorites heading into Molineux Stadium on Sunday. But on the other side stands a well-rested and hungry Norwich, who before going to winter break, showcased class and discipline against Liverpool in their last league showing.

Daniel Farke‘s side are eight points out of the safe zone but time is running out. The sense of urgency is at an all-season high for the Canaries, believers of their under-appreciated strengths.

“They (Wolves) are playing in Europe, they have kept three clean sheets, they have individual quality and it is a huge task,” Farke said. “But I don’t see any easy fixtures at this stage. It is about us. We always have a chance if we are good at our topics.

“People can write us off and say we have no chance to close the gap. But I don’t agree. It is possible.”

INJURIES: Wolves — OUT: Ruben Vinagre (hamstring) | Norwich — OUT: Timm Klose (knee), Sam Byram (hamstring)

Manchester United vs. Watford — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

History and data say Watford, who have never won a league game at Old Trafford, stand no chance against Manchester United on Sunday.

But if one victory inspired a mostly-lethargic Hornets this season under Nigel Pearson it was the 2-0 win over United at Vicarage Road. The second-to-last side went on a six-match unbeaten streak following the said victory. It brought the club back to life, lifting them out of the bottom three.

Watford have since faltered and dropped back below the red line, but Pearson promises to stick to his philosophical guns.

“We approach every game in a very similar way and that is to try and be as positive as we can,” he said. “We’ll go out there and we’ll do what we can to win the game, we’ve not changed our approach, it’s just that results sometimes change how people perceive things.”

United will certainly look different, as Odion Ighalo is expected to make his home debut against his former club following his arrival in earlier this month.

United, who stand in the seventh spot with 38 points, have a clear window of opportunity to surpass fifth-place Tottenham with a victory. Prior to Sunday’s match, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer addressed questions regarding consistency.

“It is team selection – you’ve got to maybe rotate in Europe like we’ve done, then maybe go back to what we were at Chelsea this week,” Gunnar Solskjaer said. “I feel that Bruno [Fernandes] and Odion [Ighalo] coming in will get more goals in the team. That’s been lacking. The games we’ve lost – West Ham, Burnley, Palace, Bournemouth – we’ve had chances but we haven’t scored goals.”

Perhaps Ighalo could finally contribute towards a win at Old Trafford with Watford jerseys on the field.

INJURIES: Manchester United — Paul Pogba (ankle), Axel Tuanzebe (thigh), Marcus Rashford (back) | Watford — OUT: Daryl Janmaat (knee), Tom Cleverley (match fitness)

Arsenal vs. Everton — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Subplots reign supreme ahead of Everton’s visit to the Emirates.

Mesut Ozil, who missed the Gunners’ 1-0 Europa League victory, and Andres Gomes, 16 weeks after an ankle dislocation and fracture, are both expected to return to action. Meanwhile, Mikel Arteta and Carlo Ancelotti will meet for the first time after being linked to each other’s position before the start of the new year.

Perhaps the most significant one, however – at least to Everton – is that it’s been 24 years since the Toffees won at Arsenal. If they can pull it off this time around, the Liverpool-based side will be one step closer to the European dream.

“We have to be focused on Arsenal,” Ancelotti said. “Then there are very important games after. There’s [Manchester] United, Chelsea, Liverpool. After these four games, we can see what is going on for Europe.”

“This is a really important game against a strong team, away, but we have to have confidence to do our best and try to win. We’ve got 13 games to go and have got ourselves in a decent position,” he said. “It gives us the platform to have a decent season. I think we’ve done okay. We’ve had huge problems over six weeks and fair play to the squad for showing that resilience.”

Everton have picked up 17 points out the 24 possible under the Italian, while Arsenal have only experienced two wins under the Spaniard.

INJURIES: Arsenal — Cedric Soares (knee), Kieren Tierney (shoulder), Callum Chambers (knee), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (knee) | Everton — OUT: Jean-Phillipe Gbamin (thigh)

Norwich City’s Farke bewildered after latest hard luck day

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Daniel Farke‘s Norwich City put together a fine performance away to Newcastle United, but the manager knows they needed all of the points.

Instead, it was a 0-0 draw with Teemu Pukki, Ondrej Duda, and Emiliano Buendia lively but unable to produce a goal against the Magpies.

“We’re totally disappointed because we totally dominated,” Farke said, via the BBC. “The level of the chances should be enough to win, especially an away game. It’s not a bad result, but we are more disappointed than happy.”

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The last-place Canaries have taken four of their 18 points from the Magpies but really needed that to be six; There will not be too many better fixtures on the schedule the rest of the way.

Farke is having trouble being critical of his team, whose last four matches include a defeat of Bournemouth, a hard-luck loss to Spurs, an FA Cup win over Burnley, and a pretty good show in Saturday’s nil-nil.

“I always respect the players. They put themselves in tough positions. We were dangerous. They did everything we asked for. We want them to be more brutal with their finishing, but these things happen sometimes. I’m happy with the performance, not the result.

“A nearly perfect performance deserves three points. We’re not playing to avoid losing, we’re playing to win. It has been four top-class performances in a row.”

Premier League Preview: Norwich City v. Watford

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Two teams more than a result away from safety hope to get a season-changing win at Carrow Road on Friday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET, online at NBCSports.com).

Hosts Norwich City enter the match with seven points, the second worst total in the league to its visitors: basement-dwelling, winless Watford.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

“This will be like a big, big final for both teams,” said Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores.

Watford’s performances have improved dramatically, but the Hornets are six points back of 17th. Norwich has two more points, but their performances have been a far cry from the team that beat Man City and took Chelsea to the limit.


Injuries/suspensions

Norwich City: OUT — Timm Klose, Christoph Zimmermann, Grant Hanley. QUESTIONABLE — Mario Vrancic.

Watford: OUT — Domingos Quina, Danny Welbeck. QUESTIONABLE — Craig Cathcart.


Probable lineups

Norwich City: Krul, Aarons, Tettey, Godfrey, Lewis, Cantwell, McLean, Buendia, Stiepermann, Hernandez, Pukki.

Watford: Foster, Masina, Kabasele, Dawson, Janmaat, Doucoure, Chalobah, Hughes, Pereyra, Deulofeu, Gray.


What they’re saying

Norwich boss Daniel Farke on the mood: “I think it’s important as a coach to face reality, you can’t make jokes and have fun, you’ve got to address the elephant in the room to help them regain confidence. I don’t punish my players, it’s about helping them improve and believe in themselves.”

The Hornets’ Flores on why this match matters: “It is not the end of the season but it is a big final for both of us and the way the game and result can change the future for both teams will be massive.”


Prediction

Troy Deeney comes off the bench to make a difference in his return from injury, and Watford wins 2-1.

Farke says VAR failed Norwich City, Zimmermann

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Norwich City manager Daniel Farke‘s team already had a defender fitness problem when Christoph Zimmermann was forced out of an eventual 2-0 to West Ham United on Saturday.

And the boss is wondering what exactly VAR was doing when Zimmermann was hurt by a sliding Sebastien Haller challenge and, in Farke’s mind, hampered in trying to stop Haller’s goal minutes later.

[ RECAP: West Ham 2-0 Norwich ]

“I’m a friend of VAR, but on this day it didn’t work”

While his below comments are entirely accurate — Haller was the scorer of the goal in question, not celebrating atop the scorer — it’s easy to see why Farke is angry as another center back goes for scans.

“This is a game where VAR didn’t work,” Farke said. “There was a nasty tackle against my center back and it wasn’t even given as a free kick. Then a few mins later my center back wasn’t able to spring back and block the cross (on Haller’s goal). My center back is now in hospital. My feeling was this made the difference.

“The only thing I say is that my center back is in hospital and the other player is on the shoulders of the West Ham goalscorer.”

Criticizing every instance of VAR is going to get tiring, and no one wants VAR to be able to call fouls and award yellows — let’s not take that away from the field — but is there a larger point here?

It may not take so long for VAR to get used to the Premier League, remember that the on-field refs are going to have growing pains: Worried about the flow of the game, let alone their own ego after review, it seems we’re in for more fits and starts.

Also don’t forget that this was a comfortable win for West Ham United, who put 8 of its 18 shots on target, and Farke’s required to talk about something after the game. “We were outclassed today” isn’t less fun as a line of reasoning.

Norwich boss Farke ‘totally in love with this team’ despite defeat

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Daniel Farke insists he won’t be deterred by one bad result upon Norwich City’s return to the Premier League.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines for opening weekend | How VAR will work in PL ]

Sure, Farke’s side was beaten 4-1 by Liverpool on Friday — it was 4-0 by halftime — but the German manager remains “totally in love with this team,” a group that he says approached the 2019-20 Premier League season’s curtain-raiser with a “greedy” mentality and showed no fear in facing the reigning European champions and PL title chasers — quotes from the BBC:

“We’re disappointed. We were greedy, we wanted to be the first team in two and a half years to win here. But I’m totally in love with this team. The mentality to win the second half in front of an excited home crowd, we showed great character.

“No one wanted to hear it at halftime but I told them we had the same possession and had created more chances. Liverpool had scored four, though. It was tough to take but I felt we were not too far away from a good result.”

Norwich won’t be the last side to be completely overwhelmed by Liverpool — they just so happened to be the first — but the Reds barely had to move out of first gear to establish a three-goal lead inside the opening half-hour. Opening-day nerves — inside the cauldron of Anfield, no less — unquestionably played a part in the Canaries’ slow start, but their commitment to playing attacking soccer will surely cause plenty of problems for more than a few sides this season.