Premier League Previews

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.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

“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.

Premier League Preview: Newcastle United v. Chelsea

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Chelsea visits surprising Newcastle United in a marquee match Saturday at St. James’ Park (Watch Live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The hosts have scrapped their way to 26 points, five points both clear of the drop zone and back of seventh place. A draw at Wolves last weekend snapped a three-match league losing streak.

Chelsea maintains a five-point gap over Manchester United in its bid to claim a Top Four place, with the Red Devils meeting unbeaten Liverpool this week. The Blues are seeking back-to-back league wins for the first time since Nov. 9.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Newcastle has had a fair bit of success against the big boys this season, beating Manchester United and Spurs while drawing Man City.

Christian Pulisic stole the ball en route to Marcos Alonso‘s late goal in a 1-0 win when the two sides met at Stamford Bridge in October.

Pulisic, of course, is still out injured for Chelsea and Lampard says the American could return near the club’s February break. Newcastle has electric winger Allan Saint-Maximin back in the fold after more than a month on the sidelines. Matt Ritchie and Jonjo Shelvey are also available.


Injuries/suspensions

Newcastle United: OUT — Paul Dummett, Dwight Gayle, DeAndre Yedlin, Fabian Schar, Jetro Willems, Javi Manquillo. QUESTIONABLE — DeAndre Yedlin, Yoshinori Muto.

Chelsea: OUT — Ruben Loftus-Cheek, N’Golo Kante, Pulisic. QUESTIONABLE — Marcos Alonso.


Probable lineups

Newcastle United: Dubravka; Willems, Clark, Lascelles, Fernandez, Ritchie; Hayden, Shelvey; Saint-Maximin, Joelinton, Almiron.

Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Zouma, Rudiger, James; Jorginho, Willian, Mount, Kovacic, Hudson-Odoi; Abraham.


What they’re saying

Newcastle boss Steve Bruce on his meeting with owner Mike Ashley: “It went very well. We showed what we are trying to do, and he was fully supportive. We have plates spinning and hope to add to the squad by the end of the month. We have said that the targets have to improve us. He has been fully supportive of the remit. He agrees we buy quality not quantity. That has to be the mantra.”

Chelsea’s Frank Lampard on Newcastle’s many injuries: “It is still an opportunity, but this is vital. Every game brings challenges, going to Newcastle, the emotion of the crowd and they are an organized side. We won’t take it lightly. We have to take every game head-on. We don’t underestimate there. Bournemouth were down to the bare bones and we lost, it can bring out a different feeling. They have done very well and I don’t look at the bare bones.


Prediction

St. James’ Park has been a tough place to play, but the Blues shake off any travel to collect a 2-1 win over the Magpies.

Premier League Preview: Arsenal v. Southampton

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Two struggling sides meet Saturday at the Emirates Stadium when Unai Emery‘s Arsenal visits Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s Southampton (Watch Live at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The host Gunners are winless and four and sit eight points back of the Top Four. Despite a wildly talented attack, gthey’ve scored just 16 goals in 12 matches and have a minus-1 goal differential.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Saints’ troubles are at the other end of the table, as Hasenhuttl’s men are living that Bottom Three life with just eight points from 12 matches.

Their problem has been scoring and conceding goals, though their 29 allowed markers is a bit inflated by the horrible nine-star embarrassment suffered against Leicester.


Injuries/suspensions

Arsenal: OUT — Dani Ceballos. QUESTIONABLE — Sead Kolasinac.

Southampton: OUT — None. QUESTIONABLE — Michael Obafemi.


Probable lineups

Arsenal: Leno; Tierney, Luiz, Sokratis, Chambers; Guendouzi, Torreira, Ozil; Pepe, Lacazette, Aubameyang.

Southampton: McCarthy; Stephens, Bednarek, Vestergaard; Hojbjerg, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Armstrong, Djenepo; Ings, Redmond.


What they’re saying

Unai Emery on a possible Granit Xhaka return: “We have here some examples. For example, with Hector Bellerin. He told me two weeks ago he struggled here with the supporters sometimes when his performance was not the best. Also we have some other players who have had that situation. They come back. With Xhaka, I want to do the same. …  Also he is a good guy, a good player and he loves and respects Arsenal a lot, but knowing one day he made a mistake.”

Hasenhuttl on using the international break for good: “We had an intense week with a game against Brentford, which was a good test for us. We tried to go back to our basic fundamentals which is good for the players. We worked very hard and tried to show them how it can work. We had a good atmosphere in the sessions and in the game. The guys are following well, and that’s exactly what we need. Especially against big opponents because you have nothing to lose.


Prediction

It feels like both squads’ malaise should come to an end, but it’s only coming for one. We’re betting Xhaka has a nice return to the fold and Pepe shines to the tune of a 3-1 win for Arsenal.

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.

Pulisic in ‘strong contention’ to start at Burnley

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Frank Lampard says Christian Pulisic is “in strong contention” for a start at Burnley after a pair of game-changing sub performances for Chelsea (Watch Live at 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

American star Pulisic stole the ball that led to Chelsea’s winner last weekend versus Newcastle, and assisted Michy Batshuayi‘s decisive goal in the Champions League at Ajax.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Now to Turf Moor, where the bruises are as plentiful as the possession. Will Pulisic get into the XI?

“The way he’s played he deserves a starting place regularly in the last few weeks but so do others and that’s what I keep saying, it’s a nice problem that I have,” Lampard said. “It’s brilliant that he’s coming on and making the impact that he’s making and of course he’ll get his starts. It’s the reason he’s here.

“But we’ve got Callum Hudson-Odoi who’s top class against Newcastle last week at home. In terms of creation, Willian I think I kinda declared him our best player in the great patch that we had over four or five games. They are good options for me and Christian is getting stronger and more in the groove, and you keep seeing it with players, some you have to give them a bit of time, the young players. But he’s playing well so he’s certainly in strong contention.”

There could be a place for Michy Batshuayi or Reece James in the Starting XI as Lampard eyes rotation for the Blues’ third match in just over a week.

The Blues have taken advantage of a promising run of fixtures to climb into the Top Four on 17 points, and that run continues with Burnley, Watford, and Crystal Palace. Cup fixtures with Manchester United and Ajax are mixed in, so Saturday may present a prime chance to start Pulisic in a PL match and use his favored vets at midweek.

Burnley, meanwhile, saw a four-match unbeaten run end at Leicester City. The scrappy top-half Clarets are 1W-2D-1L in their last four trips to Stamford Bridge.


Injuries/suspensions

Burnley: OUT —  Danny Drinkwater, Johann Berg Gudmundsson. QUESTIONABLE — Chris Wood. PROBABLE —Ashley Barnes, Jack Cork.

Chelsea: OUT — Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Antonio Rudiger, N’Golo Kante, Ross Barkley, Andreas Christensen. QUESTIONABLE — None.


Probable lineups

Burnley: Pope, Pieters, Mee, Tarkowski, Lowton, Brady, Westwood, Hendrick, McNeil, Wood, Barnes.

Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Alonso, Tomori, Zouma, Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Kovacic, Hudson-Odoi, Mount, Pulisic, Batshuayi.


What they’re saying

Sean Dyche on Lampard’s performance at Chelsea: “A lot is made of the young players and they are doing really well but there is some really good players around them. If you look at that squad on paper. It is not like he went into a group of novice hurdlers, but he is adding to that and adding his own way as to how he wants the team to perform. You could see the pressing lines and the energy and the sharpness.”

Lampard on the Turf Moor challenge: “It’s a tough place to go. They have a strong way of playing, they are well drilled. They can give you big problems. It is a tough match. You have to respect the teams you play, it will be a physical battle.”


Prediction

Another tough, contested, but ultimately victorious days for the in-form Blues. There will be a scare at some point, but Chelsea finds a 2-1 win at Turf Moor.