Liverpool will aim to temporarily leapfrog Manchester City on the Premier League table when they welcome Watford to Anfield on Saturday.
The dreaded international break is finally over, and the 2021/22 season enters its business end henceforth. In the Premier League, Gameweek 31 begins on Saturday. The action will kick off with the lunch-time kick-off at Anfield, where Liverpool will play hosts to Watford in a game that has high stakes riding on it.
Liverpool’s struggles of the 2021/22 season seem to be a thing of the distant past, with the Reds better than ever under Jurgen Klopp. The Merseyside giants won the first trophy of the season by beating Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final and have the chance to win an unprecedented quadruple. The Reds have recovered well in the Premier League title race and are just a point behind defending champions Manchester City.
On the other hand, Watford will likely drop down to the EFL Championship after just one season in the top-flight following what has been a dismal 2021/22 campaign. The Hornets are the best-placed of the three teams in the relegation zone but face a daunting run-in, wherein they will take on Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea.
Liverpool cruised to a 5-0 win over Watford in the reverse fixture, with Roberto Firmino scoring a match-winning hat-trick, while Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah also found the target. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
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Looking ahead to #LIVWAT 🎙
We’re LIVE with Jürgen Klopp ahead of Saturday’s match against Watford! https://t.co/FFjjfRAF99
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) April 1, 2022
Jurgen Klopp does not have any new roster issue hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Watford. On Saturday, the Liverpool manager will be bereft of the services of just three first-team players due to various issues.
Trent Alexander-Arnold has resumed training and should be in contention to feature after recovering from a hamstring injury. But Klopp will likely preserve the English international ahead of sterner tests ahead for Liverpool. Naby Keita could miss out due to a knee injury, while James Milner is recovering from an illness.
With Milner a minor doubt, Joe Gomez becomes a certainty to feature in the right-back berth in Alexander-Arnold’s absence. The rest of the Liverpool backline should feature first-choice options in Joel Matip, Virgil van Dijk and Andrew Robertson, with Alisson Becker taking his place between the sticks.
Up ahead in midfield, Klopp should name a strong trio of Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara. Fabinho will sit at the base, looking to initiate Liverpool’s moves swiftly, while Thiago and Henderson will be the workhorses in the middle of the park.
As for the attacking unit, Klopp has all his resources at his disposal. Mohamed Salah is an automatic pick on the right-wing, meaning Roberto Firmino, Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz, and Sadio Mane will contest for the remaining slots. Firmino and Jota should get the nod for the other two positions. Mane is likely to get a rest, while Diaz will get a chance to blow some steam after a tough international break.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Gomez, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Firmino, Jota
Unlike his counterpart in the Liverpool dugout, Roy Hodgson will not have any issues to contend with ahead of the trip to Anfield. The Watford boss will have a full-strength squad at his disposal on Saturday, with Jeremy Ngakia and Nicolas Nkoulou recovering from their respective problems.
Since becoming the Watford manager, Hodgson has largely preferred the 4-3-3 formation, and he should utilise the system against Liverpool. Ben Foster will be stationed in the Watford goal, with the players in front of him lining up in a compact setup to contain Liverpool’s threat.
— Watford Football Club (@WatfordFC) March 31, 2022
Christian Kabasele and Samir should pair up at the heart of the Watford defence, looking to direct the two full-backs to remain disciplined, particularly to curb the danger posed by Mohamed Salah. Kiko Femenia and Hassane Kamara will be the two full-backs, with the duo largely staying put at the back and only foraying forward during counter-attacks.
Up ahead in midfield, Moussa Sissoko will have the onus on him to keep things tight and restrict Thiago Alcantara’s forward movements. Imran Louza and Juraj Kucka will provide defensive support to Sissoko and the forward thrust to push Watford forward on the counters.
Finally, the attacking unit will feed off scraps on Saturday, with Emmanuel Dennis bringing the X-Factor against Liverpool. Cucho Hernandez and Joao Pedro will complete the offensive department at Anfield, with Joshua King and Ismaila Sarr being the backup options for Hodgson.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Foster; Femenia, Kabasele, Samir, Kamara; Louza, Sissoko, Kucka; Hernandez, Pedro, Dennis
- Liverpool have won 12 of their 13 home league games against Watford, except a 1-0 loss in August 1999. They have won the last six in a row against the Hornets at Anfield by an aggregate score of 22-1. Watford have taken just four points from their last 30 available against Liverpool in the Premier League (W1 D1 L8), drawing 3-3 in August 2017 and winning 3-0 in February 2020 (both at Vicarage Road).
- Liverpool have won each of their last nine Premier League home games, scoring 27 goals and conceding just twice in this run. The Reds are unbeaten in their previous 18 league games at Anfield (W14 D4) since a 1-0 loss to Fulham in March 2021.
- Liverpool have won their last nine Premier League games, and a victory here would see them become the second club to have five runs of 10+ consecutive wins in the competition, after Manchester City. It would also be Liverpool’s third such run in the Premier League under Jurgen Klopp, with only Pep Guardiola (4) leading his side to 10+ consecutive wins on more occasions in the competition.
- Watford have garnered eight points from their six Premier League away games under Roy Hodgson (W2 D2 L2), as many as they had from their previous 17 on the road in the competition (W2 D2 L13). The Hornets won 2-1 at Southampton last time out but have not won consecutive away top-flight games since a run of three in September 2017.
- Mohamed Salah has been directly involved in 11 goals in just seven Premier League games against Watford, scoring nine and assisting two. The Egyptian averages a goal or assist every 57 minutes against the Hornets, the fourth-best ratio one player has against a club in Premier League history (minimum 600 minutes against that opponent).
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For the second time in three months, Mohamed Salah returns to Liverpool defeated from a hugely frustrating international break. This time, the Liverpool talisman is back at Anfield following Egypt’s inability to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
But a defeated Salah is the worst kind of Salah for an opposition, meaning Watford will be the unfortunate team to face him. While the 29-year-old contemplates international retirement, he will be eager to guide Liverpool to success, starting with a big win against Watford, which should keep them firmly in contention to win the Premier League title.
Liverpool 4-0 Watford
The game on Saturday will likely go only one way, despite Trent Alexander-Arnold’s potential absence. Liverpool could run riot against Watford at Anfield, just as they had in the reverse fixture in October, which happened to be former boss Claudio Ranieri’s first game in charge of the Hornets.
An angry Mohamed Salah will make the difference, meaning Jurgen Klopp might not even need to call upon the two attackers who will not make the starting eleven. The Hard Tackle predicts a cruise of a win for Liverpool, with the Reds clinching a 4-0 victory against Watford.