Title aspirants Liverpool will look to bounce back to winning form as they host Watford at Anfield on Wednesday.
Liverpool wasted a great chance to open up a three-point lead at the top of the Premier League table, as they were held to a goalless draw by a spirited Manchester United side this past weekend. With just one point separating them and Manchester City, the Reds can’t afford to slip up again when they host Watford at Anfield on Wednesday.
It hasn’t been a productive month for the Merseyside giants, who have won just one of their last four games in all competitions, netting only four goals in those matches.
However, they do possess a strong record against their weekend opponents, having scored as many as 11 goals in their last two home matches against Watford. They are also unbeaten in their last six meetings against the Hornets, drawing one of them.
As for Watford, they are coming on the back of a staggering 5-1 win over Cardiff City, which helped them climb over Wolverhampton Wanderers into the seventh spot in the league table. Additionally, the Hornets have remained unbeaten in February so far, winning three out of their four matches in all competitions.
Therefore, Liverpool will surely have a stern test at their hands this week as they aim to maintain their slender lead over Man City and here at the Hard Tackle, we take a look at both of these sides ahead of their crucial Premier League encounter on Wednesday.
Team News & Tactics
Liverpool were given a huge boost this week after head coach Jurgen Klopp confirmed that star striker Roberto Firmino will be contention despite being taken off during the first half against Manchester United.
However, we expect the Brazilian international to be given a breather, with Klopp having one eye on the important Merseyside derby this weekend.
Daniel Sturridge could deputize for Firmino in the number nine slot, meaning Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane are likely to retain their wider attacking roles. However, Klopp could also opt for Xherdan Shaqiri, which will force Salah to feature as the false nine. But, we expect the former Dortmund coach to start with Sturridge in this one.
Jordan Henderson could be given a breather against Watford after failing to provide any sort of creativity in midfield. As a result, Naby Keita will return to the starting lineup, with the Guinean recovering from illness. He will be deployed alongside Fabinho and Georginio Wijnaldum in Liverpool’s 4-3-3.
Fabinho will be tasked with the responsibility of providing defensive cover for the backline, which is likely to remain unchanged aside from the expected return of Trent-Alexander Arnold. The youngster will replace James Milner in the right-back slot and will look to feed Sturridge by providing crosses into the box.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Fabinho, Keita; Salah, Sturridge, Mane.
Kiko Femenia is apparently the only injury-related absentee for Watford in their trip to Anfield this week, although coach Javi Gracia will miss out on the services of full-back Jose Holebas, who is serving a two-game suspension.
Daryl Janmaat will feature in the absence of Femenia in the right-back slot while Adam Masina will continue to deputize for the suspended Holebas on the opposite flank. Adrian Marippa and Craig Cathcart, meanwhile, will continue to form the central defensive pairing for Watford.
Minimal changes are expected in midfield with Abdoulaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue likely to retain their place at the base of Watford’s 4-2-2-2.
Ken Sema will have to settle a place on the bench as Roberto Pereyra has returned to full fitness. The former Juventus midfielder will be deployed in the attacking midfield role along with Will Hughes and the duo will look to take full advantage of Liverpool’s attack-minded full-backs, who often leave spaces in behind.
And finally, in attack, Troy Deeney and Gerard Deulofeu are guaranteed starters, after they scored five goals between them in the win over Cardiff. Isaac Success and Andre Gray will provide Gracia with additional options in the attacking department.
Probable Lineup (4-2-2-2): Foster; Janmaat, Cathcart, Mariappa, Masina; Doucoure, Capoue; Hughes, Pereyra; Deeney, Deulofeu.
1. Watford Asian Handicap + 2.0 @ 1.575
2. Liverpool Clean Sheet – NO @ 1.80
1. Full Time Result – Draw or Watford @ 3.75
- Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 34 matches at Anfield in the Premier League.
- Only the current top five have scored more away goals than Watford (22) this season.
- Liverpool are unbeaten in their last six league meetings with Watford (W5 D1), netting 20 goals and keeping four clean sheets in that run.
- Watford have lost their last 11 away games Premier League games against “big six” teams since beating Arsenal at the Emirates in January 2017.
- Liverpool’s front three have all been directly involved in more than five goals each for the Reds in league meetings with Watford – Salah has six goals and one assist in three games, Mane has three goals and three assists in four games, and Firmino has five goals and three assists in seven games.
Player to Watch
After failing to make an impact against a well-disciplined Manchester United backline, the onus will be on Mohamed Salah to provide the spark in the Liverpool attack this week, especially in the likely absence of Firmino.
The Egyptian hasn’t exactly been able to hit the heights of last season, even though his offensive productivity has remained the same. Indeed, the former AS Roma star has been involved in 28 goals this season and his pace coupled with his immaculate control on the ball could be crucial against a congested Watford setup.
However, it is to be noted that the Hornets have conceded only two goals in their last six matches in all competitions, further escalating Salah’s importance in this crucial fixture for Liverpool this week.
Liverpool 0-0 Watford
As mentioned earlier, Watford have fared well defensively in the past few weeks, thus it won’t be surprising to see the Hornets keeping a clean sheet against this Liverpool side, who have failed to find the back of the net in their last two matches.