Watford manager will not hatch a plan to stop Wilfried Zaha ahead of the trip to Selhurst Park.

Crystal Palace are not a one-man team – Gracia

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  • 2019-01-11 23:10:33 1 years ago
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Watford manager Javi Gracia will not devise a special plan to stop Wilfried Zaha as he denied Crystal Palace are a one-man team.

The Hornets travel to Selhurst Park on Saturday aiming to build on an encouraging festive period where they lost only one match, a 2-1 Boxing Day defeat at home to Chelsea.

Zaha may have starred for Palace in recent times – indeed, Eden Hazard was the only player to have completed more dribbles and won more fouls in the Premier League than the Ivorian last season – but Gracia said: "We have a collective vision, and we never think about an individual plan.

"We know that Zaha is an important player for them because he has a lot of qualities, and a lot of skill, but they have very good players, more than only one.

"Zaha dribbles a lot and we know we have to be ready to control him, but Andros Townsend, Andre Ayew, and other players they have are dangerous, too. They have a strong squad."

As Gracia approaches a year in charge at Vicarage Road, the Spaniard has provided some much-needed stability , and was rewarded by the club's owners with a long-term contract before Christmas.

Watford are eighth, on course for their best-ever finish in the Premier League, and could be forgiven for having one eye on qualifying for Europe.

"I am happy, but I always want more," added Gracia. "I always want to improve.

"When we start the season, I want to be the champion, I want to be the first one. I have that vision, and that ambition. After that, we will be the best team in the competition. It's my expectation and I want to work with that mentality.

"Every game we play is a good challenge for us and is a chance for us to show what we are able to do.

"This point of view is better because at the end of the road we can see our achievement. I prefer to enjoy every day and be ambitious in every training session. We can improve in every little detail."

Gracia will take a late decision on whether to include Christian Kabasele and Andre Gray for the trip to Palace after the duo returned to training from their respective injury lay-offs on Thursday.

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Crystal Palace are not a one-man team – Gracia

Clyne never intended to upset Warnock by rejecting Cardiff for Bournemouth

Nathaniel Clyne insists his "intention wasn't to hurt anyone" after being heavily criticised by his former manager Neil Warnock for snubbing a move to Cardiff.

England defender Clyne upset Bluebirds boss Warnock last week by opting to join Bournemouth on loan from Liverpool.

Warnock, who handed the right-back his professional debut at Crystal Palace in 2008, claimed he had been "promised" Clyne by the Merseyside club, before discovering on television that he had chosen Eddie Howe's Cherries.

The 70-year-old Warnock branded Liverpool a "disgrace" and said they lacked class, while he was unhappy not to receive a phone call from the player.

"My intention wasn't to hurt anyone. It's down to footballing reasons," said Clyne as he explained his decision at a Bournemouth press conference.

"Me and Neil Warnock have a good relationship.

"I enjoyed working with him at Crystal Palace and I have a lot of respect for the man."

Warnock appeared to have softened in his attitude to the incident when he spoke at a Cardiff press conference earlier on Friday.

He said he did not blame 27-year-old Clyne for choosing the south coast over south Wales.

Clyne followed Dominic Solanke from Anfield to the Vitality Stadium last Friday and made his Cherries debut the following day in the 3-1 FA Cup loss to Brighton.

He added: "They've got great quality players here, the style of play is similar to what I play with at Liverpool.

"I'm just looking forward to the challenge and can't wait to get going."

Solanke, meanwhile, must wait for his first Bournemouth appearance after arriving with a hamstring problem which will keep him sidelined for at least a couple more weeks.

The £19million striker, who won a solitary England cap in 2017, wants to play his way back into international contention and seemed unfazed by his hefty fee.

"That would be a goal of mine but I think I've just got to focus on getting back fit and helping the team here then in the international breaks we'll see what happens," he said of his England ambitions.

Speaking about his transfer fee, the 21-year-old added: "That side is a bit more of the business side. I don't really focus too much on that, I'm just focused on playing really."

The former Chelsea player's last senior game came on the final day of last season when he scored in Liverpool's 4-0 victory over Brighton.

Asked about his fitness, he replied: "I'm hoping a few more weeks but I've got to keep speaking to the medical team and see how my rehab goes."

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Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United - prediction, team news, lineups

Tottenham Hotspur host Manchester United at Wembley on Sunday in a match which sees Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino face the club he has been tipped to take over in the summer.

The hosts could temporarily move back into second place with a win, while United are looking to continue their recent victorious streak to stay in touch with the top four.


Tottenham

Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino pictured on January 4, 2019© Reuters

Pochettino may just feel a little extra pressure on his shoulders than usual heading into this one considering he has been so heavily linked with the Manchester United post.

It is not exactly a job interview - his good work with Spurs so far should speak volumes for what he would bring to the role - but should he want to take over at Old Trafford then a victory over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, one of his competitors for the job, would only enhance his credentials further.

Of course, his current focus will be entirely on Tottenham, and should they continue on their current trajectory then it is possible that Pochettino would see a move from North London to Manchester as a step in the wrong direction.

Spurs are 10 points above United in the table ahead of Sunday's showdown, and victory would lift them up into second place - at least until Manchester City take on Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday night.

Six points separate Pochettino's side from league leaders Liverpool as things stand, although Spurs have been in good enough form to keep in touch and will be ready to pounce on any more slip-ups from a side that has lost their last two games.

Tottenham have won 15 of their last 18 outings across all competitions, including all three so far in 2019 without conceding a goal - scoring 11 in the process too.

A 7-0 win over Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup is the biggest reason behind those impressive statistics, but Tottenham also picked up a 3-0 triumph at Cardiff City in their most recent league outing and overcame Chelsea in the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final in midweek.

There is still work to do when they take a one-goal advantage to Stamford Bridge later this month, but it is a very good chance for the club to end their 11-year trophy drought, not to mention pick up a first piece of silverware under Pochettino.

Indeed, Pochettino is yet to win a single major trophy in his managerial career, although he will not have his mind on the EFL Cup alone with Spurs still in contention in all four competitions this season.

Success in any may be enough to help convince the Argentine that he can achieve his goals with Spurs, although it is also only likely to increase United's interest in appointing him as Jose Mourinho's permanent successor.

Recent Premier League form: WWWWLW
Recent form (all competitions): WWLWWW


Man Utd

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer applauds during the FA Cup third-round game between Manchester United and Reading on January 5, 2019© Reuters

Pochettino may not be treating this one as a job interview, but Solskjaer could be forgiven for doing so having made no secret of his desire to land the role on a permanent basis.

The Norwegian has certainly not done his chances any harm at all so far, but a victory over a man still understood to be the club's first choice would be the biggest feather in his cap yet.

Indeed, Solskjaer has already admitted that Sunday's match will provide him with his first real test as United boss, having been handed a relatively kind start so far against Cardiff, Huddersfield Town, Bournemouth, Newcastle United and Reading.

Nonetheless, it has still been a flying start to his managerial career at the club, and should he make it six wins from six this weekend then it would be the best ever start by a Manchester United boss - surpassing the great Sir Matt Busby.

Mourinho's exit has surely played some role in such a dramatic turnaround in form over such a short period of time, but those momentum boosts only last so long and Solskjaer must be given credit for aiding that transformation.

It is not just the results which have been impressive either; Solskjaer has restored United's attacking freedom - they have scored 16 goals in their four outings - and is beginning to get the best out of the big names who were underperforming so often when Mourinho was in charge.

There has even been an improvement defensively, with Saturday's 2-0 FA Cup win over Reading securing back-to-back clean sheets for the first time all season.

Every box has been ticked so far, then, but Solskjaer is not wrong when he describes this match as his biggest challenge yet and, even putting aside the sub-plots surrounding the managers, it will be fascinating to see how a rejuvenated United side fare away to an in-form Tottenham team.

Such a poor start to the season means that a Champions League place is now the ceiling of United's ambitions, and their recent improvement has seen them close the gap on the top four to six points.

Chelsea and Arsenal both play before them this weekend but, just like Spurs are doing with Liverpool and Man City, the Red Devils must ensure that they are there to capitalise on any slip-up from those above them in the table.

Realistically the result of this match is unlikely to have a decisive bearing on which manager United go for in the summer, but if Solskjaer can somehow secure a top-four spot this term then it will surely be very difficult to look past the interim boss.

Recent Premier League form: WLWWWW
Recent form (all competitions): LWWWWW


Team News

Paul Pogba celebrates scoring for Manchester United against Bournemouth on December 30, 2018.© Reuters

Paul Pogba is fit to feature after recovering from a leg injury he sustained against Newcastle in their last league game.

The Frenchman will be one of a number of first-team players to return following the cup tie with Reading last weekend, including David de Gea, Luke Shaw and Nemanja Matic.

Solskjaer is understood to have told Marcus Rashford during their warm-weather training camp that he is the number one striker, so Romelu Lukaku may again have to settle for a place on the bench.

Alexis Sanchez made his first start since November in the FA Cup but limped off with a hamstring injury which leaves him doubtful this match.

The game could also come too soon for Chris Smalling, leaving Phil Jones and Victor Lindelof at the heart of the defence with Eric Bailly still suspended.

As for Spurs, Son Heung-min is expected to start in what will be his final game for the club before jetting off to the Asian Cup with South Korea.

Harry Kane will lead the line alongside his in-form strike partner, with Pochettino having favoured two up front and a diamond midfield four in recent matches.

Hugo Lloris will definitely return to the side after missing out in the EFL Cup on Tuesday night, but aside from that changes could be minimal for the hosts.

Mousa Dembele is a doubt, but looks to have played his final game for the club anyway amid reports linking him with a move to China.

Tottenham possible starting lineup:
Lloris; Trippier, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Rose; Sissoko, Winks, Alli, Eriksen; Son, Kane

Man Utd possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Young, Lindelof, Jones, Shaw; Herrera, Matic; Lingard, Pogba, Martial; Rashford


Head To Head

These two sides have alternated between wins and defeats in their last eight meetings across all competitions, while the last 14 have seen six Tottenham wins to five for Man Utd.

Gone are the days when United dominated this fixture, then, although Spurs could this weekend record back-to-back triumphs over the Red Devils across all competitions for the first time since 1990.

Tottenham have won the last two league games too, including a 3-0 victory at Old Trafford earlier this season and a 2-0 triumph in the corresponding fixture last term.

United have not won away to Spurs since March 2012, losing each of their last three such visits.


Sports Mole Logo

We say: Tottenham 2-1 Man Utd

The good form of both teams makes this a difficult one to call. United are flying at the moment but this is by far their biggest test under Solskjaer, and their past two performances have just waned enough to hint at a Spurs win in this one.


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