Magpies haven’t scored in three versus Seagulls, but have won two-straight
Brighton leads all-time 10W-4D-9L
Newcastle United sees one of the Premier League’s longest away days when it hopes to spoil Brighton and Hove Albion’s hopes of firming of top-flight safety at the Amex Stadium on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).
Newcastle doesn’t give up a ton of chances, and Brighton hasn’t been capitalizing on theirs. The now relegation-threatened Seagulls have not scored in 701 minutes between the Premier League and FA Cup.
The Magpies have won two-straight but are without Miguel Almiron, who has unlocked defenses for Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondon. Can that help Brighton get a big point or three?
Brighton captain Bruno on fighting for safety: “The key thing is to stay together, and that’s where we’re lucky. We have a strong core of a team that’s been together for a long time and that helps in this situation. We need to play our football and relax, because when you put too much responsibility on yourself, you don’t always give your best. We need to relax because we’ve got good footballers, and we need to keep a calm mind. We have to relax and believe we are good footballers.”
This one has Glenn Murray written all over it, and the Seagulls will be able to find some magic to basically preserve their PL status with a 1-0 win.
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.
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.
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.
West Ham United seeks its first league sweep of Manchester United since 2006-07 when the Irons visit Old Trafford on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).
Meanwhile, United has to balance its desire to finish Top Four — they enter the weekend three points back of fourth-place Spurs — with preparation and freshness for its UEFA Champions League second leg at Barcelona next week.
What th ey’re saying
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: “We don’t have fullbacks this week. Not too many as we’ve lost Luke and Ashley through suspension. Antonio Valencia is still not fit. Maybe Matteo Darmian will be available for the bench and Marcos Rojo has been training for a while. He’s available and we’ve got Jonah (Phil Jones), who could also play there. Rojo needed to get out on the big pitch (in the Under-23s, against West Brom last Friday) so he could have that game but we’ve had a couple of practice matches so let’s see what we decide.“
West Ham captain Mark Noble: “We’re looking forward to going to Manchester United on Saturday. We were encouraged by our second-half performance at Stamford Bridge, it’s our last away game outside London and if we can reproduce the sort of performance we produced at home back in September, when we beat them 3-1, then no one will be more delighted than me. Our main worry is that, away from home, we’ve scored just one goal since this year.”
Goals on both sides of a 2-2 draw which leaves both sides a bit perturbed with their performances.
Brendan Rodgers and Leicester City are targeting seventh place and a place in the Europa League, while Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez wants another win or two to clinch Premier League safety.
The Foxes lost to Watford in their first match under Rodgers, but have beaten four bottom half sides to put together a fine winning streak and climb into seventh; Leicester is level on points with Wolves and a point ahead of Watford, though both have played one fewer match.
What they’re saying
Leicester City’s Rodgers: “I expect a very, very tough game. Rafa is a top class manager who organizes his teams exceptionally well. They play in a 5-4-1 structure when they haven’t got the ball. They don’t give away many goals, so we know we will have to have that patience, but we have a lot of exciting players in the team who can be good in one-on-one situations, and who can manipulate the ball.”
Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez: “Now we have five games and we have to think of every one like a final, as we have said many times. We must approach every game with confidence, calm, and the belief that we can do it. Leicester are a very good team. They are playing with more confidence now, and it will be tough for us, for sure.”
Leicester’s attackers may be a bit too much for Rafa’s imposing defense, especially with Florian Lejeune and Sean Longstaff out of the lineup, but the chemistry between Miguel Almiron, Ayoze Perez, and Salomon Rondon has given the Magpies another dimension. 1-1.
Manchester City will not have Sergio Aguero when Cardiff City visits, but few are debating the result of the match rather how much cushion Pep Guardiola‘s men can supply to their 7-goal lead over title rivals Liverpool in goal differential.
Guardiola still refuses to admit that winning four trophies — the league, League Cup, FA Cup, and Champions League — is a real possibility, though he may be getting a little sly when he talks about a quadruple.
“I’m not in the mind of my players fans or club to say what they think.” he said. “But from my experience, nobody has ever done it before, the legendary teams like Liverpool in the 80s, United with Ferguson, Mourinho with Chelsea, Wenger with Arsenal, nobody has done it. It’s so tough.”
A cynic would translate that as, “Look at all those legends who didn’t do it, but hey, I mean, what would that make us if we did?”
Back to Wednesday’s action: Man City needs the win to climb back over Liverpool and take a one-point lead in the race for the Premier League crown. It’s about that time in the season when we note the possibility that Guardiola’s men can become the first back-to-back winners since Manchester United won a third-straight title in 2008-09.
Cardiff City boss Neil Warnock is still fuming from the Bluebirds’ loss to Chelsea at the weekend, and he’s ready for his team to put that anger into an improbable run at safety. Cardiff opens the day in 18th place, five points back of three teams.
And Warnock is painting his men as the biggest underdogs, maybe ever. From WalesOnline:
“(Man City) have got two teams in their squad and I doubt any of our squad could get in either of them,” he said. “But I doubt if anyone in the bottom half of the table could get in either of them. They’ve just taken the Premier League to another level. It’s an amazing level.
“And you’re not only pitting your wits against the very best – possibly in the world, let alone Europe – the thing is I think it’s the highest odds in a game there’s ever been in the Premier League. 40/1 to win a game in a two horse race! The bookies say they’ve never seen betting like this apparently. That’s in reality how difficult it’s going to be.”
Also on the docket: Spurs open their brand new stadium against Crystal Palace, with the pregame festivities all a part of the NBCSN broadcast.
As a bonus, Tottenham Hotspur saw Manchester United lose to Wolves on Tuesday and can move three points clear of the Red Devils.
On the flip side, Spurs open the day in fourth place with 61 points and could be outside the Top Four if it fails to win and Chelsea defeats Brighton and Hove Albion.
Maurizio Sarri will expect a win after the poor performance and subsequent let-off against Cardiff City, and he hopes the fans will be on his side… or at least his players’ side.
“At the moment, we are a very good group, so I think it’s not helpful for my players,” he said. “For me, it’s not a big problem. I’m not happy, but it’s not a big problem. I am 60, so I can understand. But when I was 25, probably it was different. … It can happen. It’s normal, I think. We need to improve. We need to play better. We want to try to change their opinion.”
Brighton has been dragged into the relegation scrap and will use up its match-in-hand on Southampton.