Javi Gracia

Premier League Preview: Manchester United v. Watford

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  • United has won 6 of last 7 in series
  • Watford one point back of 7th
  • Red Devils remain fifth
  • Man Utd leads all-time 21W-5D-5L

Manchester United looks for a season sweep of pesky Watford and improved footing in the Top Four race when the two sides meet at Old Trafford on Saturday (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

It’s been 19 days since Manchester United fell 2-0 to Arsenal, a long time for newly-confirmed full-time manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to marinate on his first Premier League loss as manager of the Old Trafford set.

Watford has lost two of its last three PL outings, though those setbacks came against Liverpool and Manchester City

United bested Watford 2-1 at Vicarage Road in September, with Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku scoring twice in three first-half minutes.

What they’re saying

United’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on being named full-time manager: “This is the job that I always dreamed of doing and I’m beyond excited to have the chance to lead the club long term. From the first day I arrived, I felt at home at this special club. It was an honour to be a Manchester United player, and then to start my coaching career here. The last few months have been a fantastic experience.”

Watford’s Javi Gracia on schedule congestion due to FA Cup: “We have to play eight games in the Premier League and I hope two in the FA Cup. Ten games and in these ten games, we have to show what we are able to do in the most important part of the season. I’m always focused on the next game. We’ve done this all season and it is the best way. We will continue in the same way. We have to take the right decisions and all the games are important, but now the most important game is United.”

Prediction

A delighted Old Trafford is too much for the Hornets, who fall 3-1 to the hosts.

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.

Pereyra stars as Watford slams Brighton

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  • Pereyra scores beauty off corner
  • Then runs in a gift for brace
  • Gulls outshot 19-6

Roberto Pereyra scored twice to give Javi Gracia‘s men a controlling 2-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion at Vicarage Road on Saturday.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

Mat Ryan made a fine stop on Watford captain Troy Deeney to properly open the danger. The Hornets had plenty of the ball to start the match.

As expected, Brighton grew into the game and tempted the frame through a Dale Stephens volley.

It was the Hornets who would take the lead off a corner kick, with Pereyra ripping a terrific shot off a volley that Ryan couldn’t stop.

Christian Kabasele missed a chance to make it 2-0 after the break when his header popped over the bar.

And it was Pereyra who gave Watford that score line moments later with his first Premier League brace.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Premier League Preview: Liverpool vs. Watford

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  • Sides drew 3-3 at Vicarage Road
  • Hornets 1W-1D-7L vs. Reds this century
  • Watford 10th on 36 points

Wounded animal Liverpool looks to rebound from a derby loss when it welcomes Watford to Anfield on Saturday (Watch live at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: Arsenal avoids Atleti ]

The Hornets took a controversial point at Vicarage Road when Miguel Britos made goal line havoc for Simon Mignolet deep into stoppage time.

Having drawn Man City in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, the Reds focus their attention on the race for a Top Four spot. With the other five in the Top Six dealing with FA Cup action, Liverpool can climb to within two points of second place Manchester United with a win.

Meanwhile, Javi Gracia‘s Watford can move to within a point of the celebrated 40-point mark should they find a win at Anfield. The Hornets sit nine points clear of the drop zone.

What they’re saying

Liverpool’s Klopp on the play of Trent Alexander-Arnold:

Watford’s Javi Gracia on heading to Liverpool“I know Anfield is very difficult for us, but we are looking forward to the match. I know if you see they are in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, they are top four of the Premier League and it is not easy as no-one won in Anfield [in the league] this season. If we give them the facilities we gave against Arsenal it will be impossible to get points there.”

Prediction

The rested Reds will relish the chance to put pressure on Spurs, United, and Chelsea, and come clean with a 3-0 win.

Watford announces Gracia as Silva replacement

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Watford’s replacement for fired manager Marco Silva is indeed veteran Spanish boss Javi Gracia.

[ MORE: Watford fires Silva, blames Everton ]

The Hornets announced the 47-year-old’s hiring on Sunday, hours after firing Silva and blaming Everton’s pursuit of the manager for the club’s fall from European contender to the fringe of a relegation battle.

Watford is still four points clear of the drop following Southampton’s draw with Spurs on Sunday.

Gracia led Malaga to eighth and ninth place finishes in La Liga between 2014-16 before spending last season at Rubin Kazan.

Gracia, 47, has led promotion campaigns in Spain and has plenty of experience with perceived smaller clubs battling the drop zone.

Watford will hope the Hornets don’t reach that point after flirting with the Top Seven for the first quarter of the Premier League season.