A BIG RELEGATION ONE-/TWO-/THREE-/SIX-POINTER
Watford and Norwich City may be near the bottom of the Premier League, but both of these clubs can claim to be on a run of form. Whether that means they’re at the start of one, or in the middle, or coming towards the end, is a moot point, given that Norwich’s current sequence is one win in a row, while Watford are on a one-draw tear-up. OK, as form goes, neither trend is quite as hot as Manchester City’s 12 league victories on the bounce, or Fulham’s 19-goals-in-three-games scoring spree, but you have to make the best of things and enjoy life while the going is good. It’s later than you think.
Whichever way you spin it, Watford and Norwich are both currently in a better frame of mind than fellow relegation strugglers Newcastle, pegged back late last weekend by the Hornets, and Burnley, who haven’t won or indeed played a game since the days of Bob Lord. Newcastle have gone backwards since the dismissal of Steve Bruce, currently basking in the lukewarm glow of borderline vindication, and face a difficult test at re-energised Leeds on Saturday. Burnley meanwhile have a Sunday showdown with a wounded Arsenal team looking to bounce back from their Worthington Cup no-show against Liverpool. A chance, then, for Watford or Norwich to build a small cushion o’comfort by claiming all six points that are sort of on offer when they meet at Vicarage Road on Friday night.
Watford and Claudio Ranieri both have reasons for feeling bullish. The Hornets have won their last five league matches against Norwich, and while Ranieri wasn’t in situ for any of them, he’s been winning his own battles with the Canaries, with three wins and a draw from his four career meetings. On the other hand, Watford are the only team in the top four divisions without a clean sheet, while Norwich, who had previously gone six matches without scoring, rediscovered the art last weekend while getting Rafa Benítez the sack, a performance that, depending on your point of view, either condemns Everton to the relegation battle, or saves them from it. Plenty riding on this game, then. We predict a tense tussle, a goalless draw, a classic relegation two-pointer. You’ll thank us for tempting fate when the decisive ninth goal flies in after 98 minutes.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It’s a football decision. We’re doing it for the benefit of the players in our fight to stay in the division and that’s my only thought” – Eddie Howe again declines to address Saudi Arabia’s dismal human rights record, confirming he will take his Newcastle squad there after Saturday’s game at Leeds.
RETRO QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I thought, I don’t want to go on and say I’m a Manchester United fan or a Liverpool fan – I’m gonna go down to the third level. And so I picked Hartlepool. I read about them and I found that the people of Hartlepool had hanged a monkey thinking he was a Frenchman, and I loved that story. I read everything I could about every game they played. I knew all the players. I knew who the coach was. I knew there’d been major criticism of the coach, about whether he should have put one player in or not. I was ready” – how it entered folklore that the unlikeliest of rock stars was also the unlikeliest of Hartlepool fans. RIP Meat Loaf. “We are glad to have been the team to which he dedicated his passion for football,” said a club spokesman.
“Re: yesterday’s Fiver letters. I’d heard and enjoyed that anecdote about Frank Worthington’s holiday hi-jinx before, but it really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given the title of his autobiography from whence it came” – Alan Cormack.
“If the likes of Liverpool start taking Milk Cup seriously, where is the future for teams like Arsenal? (And Spurs and Manchester United?)” – Krishna Moorthy.
Send your letters to [email protected] And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Alan Cormack.
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NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Victor Lindelof will not be involved for Manchester United against West Ham on Saturday after a “very traumatic” break-in at his family home as he played against Brentford.
Brighton boss Graham Potter has tested positive for Covid and will miss his side’s Premier League game at Leicester.
Farhad Moshiri has increased his stake in Everton to 94%. “I promise you that my determination to deliver for Everton will not waiver!” he roared in an open letter to fans.
Derby manager Wayne Rooney has not exactly distanced himself from speculation linking him to the Everton job. “I’m the same as everyone else, I see the speculation on social media [disgraces] and in the newspapers,” he come-and-get-me-plead. “Of course Everton is a club I grew up supporting. I’m flattered to get brought up in those conversations, but I know Everton know that to have any communication with me they have to go through the administrators.”
Tanguy Ndombele is heading out of the door marked Do One at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and strolling towards the one marked Bienvenue at PSG’s Parc des Princes.
Arsenal are keen on signing USA! USA!! USA!!! goaltender Matt Turner from New England Revolution.
England are to host Ivory Coast in a friendly at Wembley this March – the first time the Three Lions will meet the Elephants outside of a particularly graphic episode of Planet Earth.
Sam Kerr’s five goals in a flamin’ 18-0 win over Indonesia at the Asian Cup have made her Australian football’s greatest international goalscorer, surpassing Tim Cahill’s record of 50 international goals. “Timmy’s a legend in Australia, so to be even in the same conversation as him, it’s an amazing honour,” she cheered.
And Bruno Lage says he will try to keep Adama Traoré out of Tottenham’s clutches. “We have a top player with us, a lovely guy,” he mused. “I remember how much Tottenham protected Harry Kane at the beginning of the season.”
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I’d Lie for You (And That’s the Truth).
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