Σάββατο, 29 Φεβρουαρίου 2020

Liverpool-Watford Preview

February 29, 2020 at 02:00AM

After arguably the biggest threat to their unbeaten Premier League season, Liverpool look to right themselves and continue chasing history Saturday when they face relegation-threatened Watford at Vicarage Road in search of a record-setting 19th consecutive victory.

Perhaps it was the hangover from their midweek Champions League loss at Atletico Madrid, perhaps the pressure from trying to join Arsenal and Preston North End as the only unbeaten top-flight sides in English football history, but Monday's match against West Ham was one of the few times this season Liverpool (26-1-0) were involved in a slog.

The Merseysiders rallied for a 3-2 victory on second-half goals by Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, with right back Trent Alexander-Arnold playing a key role in the fightback with assists on Giorginio Wijnaldum's first-half goal and Mane's match-winner on 80 minutes. The 21-year-old has 12 assists - second only to Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne in the Premier League - while doing so as a defender.

"I think we passed the moment where we treat him like a young boy, he is just a proper member of the squad," Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp told the club's official website regarding Alexander-Arnold. "Everybody has to contribute, everybody has to bring on the pitch what he is able to do - and the boys do a lot to bring him or Robbo (Andrew Robertson) in the position and save them there.

"I don't want to make the performance more than it is, I am completely happy with it, but that's how football works on the highest level. (There were) super moments of Gini, for example, where he just wins that decisive battle, Sadio really (good), Bobby chasing back and wins the ball. Thank God in our stadium (it is like) nearly scoring a goal (with) the celebration after Bobby wins a really important ball back."

The 18 straight victories since their only blemish - a 1-1 draw at Manchester United on Oct. 20 - are equal with Manchester City's record-setting run set from August to December 2017 and bettered their club mark of 17 set bridging this season and last season prior to the stalemate at Old Trafford. Liverpool have won eight straight road matches since their draw at United, conceding just three goals in that span.

Liverpool have won 35 of their last 36 league matches while going unbeaten in their last 44 (39-5-0) such contests, which is the fifth-longest among clubs in Europe's top five leagues.

"I really believe that the better you defend, the easier it is to attack," Liverpool assistant Pepijn Linders said. "The last game, we didn't attack - or we were not protected in the way we should be protected - so we didn't attack in the right way and that's why we had to run back and stop these counters much deeper than we are normally used to. The better we attack, the easier it is to defend. It's really related to each other.

"If you want to win, if you want to go far, you have to dominate everything. Each phase in the best way possible. We don't speak about perfection, but the best way possible. Be dominant in each phase and that's something we are good at. If we have to defend, we defend. If we have to attack, we attack."

Talisman and midfielder Jordan Henderson is expected to miss this contest with a hamstring injury as Klopp has an eye for him to return for Liverpool's second-leg round of 16 tie at home versus Atletico Madrid on March 11. This match also kicks off a busy stretch for the Reds, who also have a fifth-round FA Cup clash with Chelsea on Tuesday.

Much like West Ham on Monday, Watford (5-9-13) are in a similar plight with relation to the relegation scrap. The Hornets are second-bottom on 24 points, trailing West Ham on goal difference but also two points from safety.

The new manager bounce Nigel Pearson brought with his arrival has ebbed during a challenging stretch of fixtures, with the Hornets winless in their last five matches (0-2-3) after a 3-0 drubbing administered by Manchester United on Sunday.

Watford had trouble containing United's attack and failed to generate much offence themselves, often second-best while putting only two shots on target and taking seven overall - two fewer than United had on target.

"It's going to be a scrap to the end of the season," keeper Ben Foster told Watford's official website. "We gave them too much time and respect. We have to keep our heads up and keep fighting.

"Team spirit is going to be a huge part of this," said the goalkeeper. "Results in other games were kind to us this weekend. We know we've got plenty of quality in the dressing room, so we can't let things affect us emotionally."

Ismalia Sarr should be available for this match after a successful 20-minute runout versus United after missing the previous three games through injury, and right back Daryl Janmaat has returned to first-team training. This contest, though, may come too soon for Kiko Femenia as he continues to work his way back from a hamstring injury.

Liverpool ran out 2-0 winners in the reverse fixture at Anfield on a brace by Salah on either side of halftime. They have won four on the trot versus Watford - all by shutout - and are 7-1-0 in the last eight meetings since the Hornets' lone top-flight home win in the series, a 3-0 victory in December 2015.

Crystal Palace-Brighton & Hove Albion Preview

February 29, 2020 at 02:00AM

Whilst Crystal Palace managed to end their lengthy Premier League winless spell last week, Brighton & Hove Albion are still stuck in one of their own.

Palace can win consecutive league games for the first time in almost three months by extending the Seagulls' top-flight winless stretch to eight matches on Saturday at the Amex.

There was a much-needed sigh of relief when time went full on Crystal Palace's 1-0 home victory over Newcastle United last Saturday. Patrick van Aanholt's goal at the end of the first half was enough for the Eagles (8-9-10) to snap a three-game losing streak and end their 0-4-3 league rut.

The result left Palace with a club-record 33 points through 27 Premier League matches, and 13th in the table. The triumph should also give them some momentum to look ahead confidently whilst trying to win back-to-back top-flight matches for the first time since Nov. 30 and Dec. 3.

"Look at what's in front of you and look at what you can get to," veteran defender Gary Cahill told Crystal Palace's official website. "Obviously, we realise we've had three not-so-good results, but along the way through we've had some good performances. (Last Saturday), I thought we deserved the win."

Palace had to work much harder just to earn a point through a 1-1 draw with Brighton at home on Dec. 16. Wilfried Zaha scored the equaliser in the 76th minute after Neal Maupay opened the scoring for the Seagulls on 54 minutes.

Brighton (6-10-11), 15th in the table and five points back of Palace, are all too familiar with the draw. They've recorded one in each of their last three Premier League games and are 0-5-2 since beating Bournemouth 2-0 at home on Dec. 28.

It was Maupay again who came through to help earn his team a point via last Saturday's 1-1 draw versus Sheffield United. His team-leading eighth goal of the season equalised on the half-hour mark.

"We'll look at the Sheffield United match to see what we did well and where we can improve. We'll (continue) to work hard this week and be ready on Saturday to get a win," Maupay, who snapped an eight-game league goal drought, told Brighton's official website.

Whilst Maupay ended his own scoring rut, Palace leading scorer Jordan Ayew (six league goals) has gone five straight top-flight games without a goal. Ayew does not have a goal in three career matches versus Brighton.

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February 29, 2020 at 02:00AM

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February 29, 2020 at 02:00AM

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New York City FC

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