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PL Preview: Manchester United v. West Ham

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  • Irons won 3-1 at Old Trafford
  • United defense is suspension-, injury-hit
  • Man Utd leads all-time 65W-31D-44L

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).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

How bad is Manchester United’s injury and suspension status out wide? Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said, “We don’t have full-backs this week.”

So that’s music to the ears of Felipe Anderson and the West Ham attackers, as Manuel Pellegrini‘s side hopes to make an unlikely climb into the Europa League.

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.”

Prediction

Goals on both sides of a 2-2 draw which leaves both sides a bit perturbed with their performances.

Premier League Preview: Leicester City v. Newcastle United

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  • Leicester won 2-0 at Newcastle
  • Foxes have won 6 of last 7 v. Magpies
  • Newcastle leads all-time 51W-27D-44L

Two former Liverpool bosses meet with very different aims when Newcastle United visits Leicester City on Friday (Watch live at 3 p.m. on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

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.”

Prediction

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.

Premier League Weds. preview: Man City aims top

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Not one but three Top Four candidates take the Premier League pitches of England on Wednesday, including the assured Top Two side hoping to reclaim its place atop the Premier League table.

[ MORE: Messi, Suarez stun Villarreal ]

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.”

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

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.

Premier League Preview: West Ham United v. Everton

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  • Irons won 3-1 at Goodison Park
  • 9th, 11th place sides separated by 2 points
  • Everton dominates all-time series 69W-31D-39L

West Ham United and Everton can still rescue European treasure from their disappointing seasons, and will meet Saturday at the London Stadium (Watch live at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The host Irons have won three-straight at home, and can move into seventh place with a win and help from hosts Manchester United versus Watford and desperate Burnley versus Wolves.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Everton can climb over West Ham with an away win on Saturday.

Both sides have been inconsistent, both over long stretches and of course over a single game. Everton rebounded from a loss to Newcastle to blank Chelsea, while West Ham came back from a 3-0 deficit in its last Premier League outing to beat Huddersfield Town 4-3.

What they’re saying

West Ham’s Manuel Pellegrini on winning at home“Fans were enjoying the game, they were all involved, supporting the team and not thinking or talking or acting like what happened last season. [The atmosphere] depends on the performance of the team, that’s why it was so important to win those three games in a row, and now it’s more important to win the fourth game.”

Everton’s Michael Keane on finding his groove“I’ve always had the belief in myself but when things aren’t going well for you on the pitch you sort of lose a bit of confidence. But I’ve always had the belief that I’m good enough to play at Everton. It’s obviously a top-class club and you have to play well week in week out to prove that to the fans and to people at the Club and I think I’ve managed to do that this season.”

Prediction

This is a difficult one to figure, with both teams having a bevy of players coming off international breaks and neither being particularly predictable in the first place. We expect goals, and we’ll call it 2-2.

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.