By Padraig O’Callaghan – @AGameOfTwoHalfz
Liverpool travel to North London to face a Watford side in fluctuating form for their 13th match of the season.
Liverpool return from the international break on the back of a 2-0 win against bottom of the table Fulham, with both Salah and Shaqiri on the scoresheet.
Liverpool were very unconvincing in the first half. Poor finishing from the newly promoted club allowed the Reds’ to take a one goal lead courtesy of Mo Salah’s sixth goal in the league following a quickly taken free-kick.
Watford have been on and off form since the season began, having won their first four league matches including a 2-1 win against Tottenham Hotspur – since then they have won just three from eight, all coming in the last four.
Liverpool look as if they are not going to slip up and lose points on Manchester City. This year if we go a goal ahead, I’m confident in our ability to protect that one goal lead and gain the much needed three points – a stark contrast to just over 12 months ago.
Liverpool have won three of their last four Premier League games, drawing the other against Arsenal, keeping two clean sheets in the process bringing the total for the season to seven.
Again, the Reds weren’t convincing even with the inclusion of Xherdan Shaqiri. One may think that Jurgen Klopp has substituted his gung-ho style football, to a more conservative style, knowing that our forwards will get an opportunity to find the back of the net and likely take it. The Reds had limited chances in three of the past four games, but the two clean sheets previously mention came in these games.
Watford are in mixed form, despite a bright start to the season. Winning only two games from the past five. Losses to Newcastle and Bournemouth were sandwiched between two impressive victories against Wolves and Huddersfield. Last week end they benefited from a refereeing mistake to earn a point against lowly Southampton.
A fine win over newly promoted Wolves who have many well-known international players surprised a few. Two quick goals from Etienne Capoue and Roberto Pereyra put the Hornets out of site midway through the first half before a routine win over Huddersfield in the next game saw them rise slowly up the table.
Two disappointing results undid all their hard work only picking up a point against Newcastle and Southampton both of whom are really struggling to gain momentum to earn points to ultimately keep them out of the relegation zone.
Jurgen Klopp has no new injury concerns after the international break, it looked as if Jordan Henderson would be a doubt for the game after sustaining an injury with England, but the captain has already returned to first team training after leaving Gareth Southgate’s team early.
Mo Salah, Joe Gomez and Xherdan Shaqiri all played a large part in their countries matches to earn much needed wins while Virgil van Dijk scored in stoppage time to send the Netherlands through to the Nations League semi-finals. With all three being in fine form for the countries, Jurgen Klopp will hope they can continue this form for their club.
Sadio Mané had an entirely different experience – the Senegalese captain was booed throughout the match after missing a guilt edged chance and left the pitch in tears at full time. Being booed by your own fans is quite physiologically damaging even more so when playing for your country.
Jurgen Klopp said in an interview last May how Mané’s red card against Man City affected his form. Having signed a new five-year contract on Thursday evening, let’s hope this positive can outweigh the negativity which occurred during the international break.
Other than that, the rest of the line-up should pick itself, though some may argue a few key players might be rested before the titanic UEFA Champions League tie vs PSG.
For Watford, Ben Foster should keep his place in goal despite conceding eight in six games. Jose Holebas, who scored against Southampton will start on the flank with Kiko Femenia providing width on the opposite side.
Mariappa should partner Cathcart in central defence, the duo has conceded the least amount of goals outside the top six (14). Javi Gacia has utilised predominantly used a variation of the 4-4-2 formation this season.
A 4-2-2-2 when attacking with the two wide midfielders dropping back to form two banks of four when defending. Nathaniel Chalobah formerly of Chelsea will start in the deepest of the midfield two alongside French midfielder Abdoulaye Doucouré who has spoken of his admiration of Liverpool and the prospect of joining Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Roberto Pereyra and Will Hughes form a dynamic attacking duo. Roberto Pereyra has been in fine form this season, five goals from midfield including a fine solo effort against Huddersfield.
Isaac Success and Andre Gray should start up front, challenging Liverpool’s defence with explosive power rather than strength.
Both strikers are quick off the block while they also possess the ability to hold up the ball well and feed it into supporting midfielders. The duo will be more than a handful for our defence with the pair scoring 6 goals between them.
One to watch: Abdoulaye Doucouré
Ever since the Frenchman moved to the Premier League, Doucouré’s performances from deep midfield has seen his stock rise.
Having had multiple stellar performances in the 17/18 season – scoring seven and providing his team-mates with a further four – talks of a £30m move for the French international gained momentum with Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham and a host of European giants registered an interest in the midfielder.
Ultimately, Doucouré remained at the London-based club and has carried on his form. He hasn’t scored yet due to being deployed in a much deeper position and has been asked to stay back. He has however matched his assists tally from last season.
Doucoure is one of few midfield destroyers left in the league, with clubs favouring a more technically gifted player to play in deep midfield. Doucouré main priority is to win the ball back and keep it moving. He can also drive forward often making late runs into the box.
He also possesses the ability to drive forward and has a rocket of a shot often finding the back of the net from outside the box. Abdoulaye Doucouré is a fine player and one I would welcome at Liverpool with open arms, with Tottenham Hotspur letting Moussa Dembélé’s contract expire his most likely move would be to White Hart Lane.
Consistency and Rotation ahead of a tough run – In the next 40 days Liverpool play 10 matches. Vital games in Europe against PSG and Napoli and playing Everton, Manchester United and Arsenal all before the new year.
With Jurgen Klopp having a fully fit squad, rotation and consistency will be vitally important to keep up with Manchester City. Fringe players like Nathaniel Clyne, Alberto Moreno and Adam Lallana are will all be expected to play a large part in this tough run, a run that may define the season.
When Jurgen Klopp does decide to rotate, the level we play at can’t change, each player when brought it. Over the years Liverpool would drop off towards the end of a season having utilized the same 12-13 player time and time again over a tough run like this having to rely on the likes of David Ngog, Luis Alberto and Iago Aspas to allow our key players some rest.
Now however thanks to Michael Edwards and Jurgen, Liverpool have a few decent options on the bench. Both Clyne and Lallana (if he can stay fit) are not ideal replacements but will do a decent job.
Dejan Lovren is arguably the best third choice defender in the League whilst we have six or seven excellent options for central midfield. Our only potential downfall may be a lack of cover for Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino.
Last 5 results
17/04/2018 Premier League Liverpool 5-0 Watford
12/08/2017 Premier League Watford 3-3 Liverpool
01/05/2017 Premier League Watford 0-1 Liverpool
06/11/2016 Premier League Liverpool 6-1 Watford
08/05/2016 Premier League Liverpool 2-0 Watford
Vicarage Road has not been a happy hunting ground for Liverpool since the London Club gained Promotion. In three matches the reds have picked up four points and shipped six goals. The sole victory in London came from an incredible bicycle kick from Emre Can.
At home however, Watford have been turned over with ease. Liverpool have scored 13 goals, conceding just one. Jurgen Klopp will hope his team can bring the home form down with them to London.
Quite a few first-team players return from the International break in excellent form, which they can hopefully carry into the match on Saturday afternoon. Watford is always a tough place to visit – Tottenham Hotspur already lost and United were lucky to come away with maximum points.
Liverpool’s defence, along with Manchester City’s, has been virtually impenetrable with both teams conceding a combined 10 goals – equal or better than every team in the league bar one. Both teams could easily go unbeaten with the days of “anyone can beat anyone” gone especially when it involves the top two clubs.
On the day Liverpool will have far too much for Watford to deal with even if the Reds’ perform to 60% of their level. Salah will continue his goal scoring form in the league as well against the Hornets having scored five against them last season.
Virgil van Dijk will finally get his first league goal with Shaqiri adding a late third to earn an excellent three points.
Watford 0-3 Liverpool (Salah, Van Dijk, Shaqiri)