The Reds get back into action Saturday at 1:30 EST when they return to Anfield to face Watford. Liverpool comes into this tea time tilt coming off a frustrating loss against Manchester United when frankly they played in my mind their worst game of the season. It was first time I can remember during this season that none of the Big 3 were able to get going and collective as a team it was a frustrating afternoon, they struggled with doing simple things like completing simple passes and they made huge errors in the back which led to both United goals. One positive is the team did put up a fight and made United sweat, they came close to a late equalizer, but it never happened and Liverpool took a big hit in the race for a top 4 spot.
With a win Liverpool would have jumped United into second, but with the loss and coupled with wins by Tottenham and Chelsea they now find themselves in 4th only 4 points ahead of Chelsea in 5th. Given the opponent, the game is at home, and with none of the rest of the competition for the top for are in action this weekend due to the FA Cup this to me is an absolute must win. They can’t have a slip up at home against Watford if we’re going to earn that all important top 4 spot and a spot in the Champions League for consecutive seasons.
Watford comes into this game in 10th place with 36 points. Watford is in a position where they don’t have a lot to play for at this point. They are 9 points safe at this point and should have no problems with survival with only 8 games left in the season, but moving up into a Europeon spot is pretty much impossible at this point. 7th place will likely be a Europa League spot, but being that they’re 7 points behind Burnley for that 7th spot it pretty much means they are in no mans land for the rest of the season. Or as they say playing out the string. Teams that are playing out the sting can be hard to predict. A lot of times teams like this don’t have a lot of motivation due not having anything to play for so when you get an opponent like this when you still have something to fight for it is always imperative to take advantage of this type of opposition.
Watford has been a weird team to figure out this year. They have scored the 8th most goals in the league with 39 goals, but have allowed 50, only West Ham and Stoke have allowed more. Looking closer at things using their expected goals to see if there are any statistical anomalies they are 9th in xg for and 16th in xg against so they are performing basically how they should be so there isn’t any good luck or bad luck happening here. However you don’t need to really look at stats in Watford’s case if you have watched them play more than a few times this year you would know pretty quickly that they have a fairly decent attack, but the thing that holds them back the most is their play in the defensive end.
They are on their second manager this season as Javi Garcia is their current skipper as he took over for their former manager Marco Silva on January the 21st. He has seemingly tried to simplify things from Silva to make them a bit of a better team in their own end. Silva on the other hand wanted to play an attack oriented style which you have to appreciate but for a mid-table team like Watford that doesn’t have the talent of the big clubs of the league it can lead to some issues by trying to play this way. Since Garica has taken over in the 6 games they have 3 wins, 2 losses, and a draw. Their biggest moment under Garica was a 4-1 destruction of Chelsea back on February the 2nd. Last time out was Sunday when Arsenal beat them 3-0. Now I don’t think the score was exactly a fair reflection of the play. But Arsenal was definitely the better side on this day and deserved them win, but Watford had their chances. Including a Troy Deeney penalty that was saved. Overall like I said their current form is 3-1-2, which is a lot like how they’ve been all year, which is a bit of an inconsistent bunch.
Since the game is at Anfield it is smart to take a look at what kind of team Watford is on the road. On the season they are 8th in away points with 14. They have 4 wins, 9 losses, and 2 draws in 15 matches away from home. They have a -7 goal differential by scoring 17 and conceding 24. Since Garica took the reigns they have not won away from home. They have a draw and 2 losses, the draw was a 0-0 game vs Stoke and the two losses were a 2-0 loss at West Ham and the aforementioned 3-0 loss at Arsenal. To put it simply everything I’m writing about points to what should be a Liverpool win.
The injury front is an area that is a bit of a struggle for Watford right now. They are currently missing 9 guys, which is the most in the league, one more than Crystal Palace who has been bitten badly by the injury bug of late. The biggest injury for Watford is Gerard Deulofeu who last played on February the 24th against Everton, he left that game in the 63rd minute and has been out since with a broken foot. Defuofeu came to Watford from Barcelona on loan in the January transfer window after Barcelona bought him from Everton over the summer for 14.4 mil. He had been a great addition for Watford looking like their best player in the 4 games he played for them, unfortunately for them or him those 4 games may be all they ever see of him in a Watford shirt. In addition to Deuofeu the list is quite long as I mentioned. Nathaniel Chalobah, Tom Cleverly, Christian Kabasele, Tommie Hoban, Younes Kaboul, Jose Holebas, former Red Jerome Sinclair and Kiko Femenia are all out of action currently. One piece of good news on the injury front Nothern Ireland international defender Craig Cathart who has been out since August appears set to be available for Watford for the game at Anfield. However I wouldn’t expect to see him getting any action on his first day back against a team like Liverpool.
This Watford team does have some legit talent. They are led in the midfield by Abdoulaye Doucoure who has been rumored as a potential Liverpool target for the holding midfield spot that anyone with a brain knows that Liverpool needs to upgrade. Doucoure has really impressed me this season, if you follow me on Twitter you will have seen how much I praise this man. He has been phenomenal for them all season. He has started all 29 league games for the Hornets scoring 7 goals, which leads the team and adding 2 assists. 7 goals for a holding midfielder is a real nice number. He averages 52 passes a game and completes them at a 83% clip, which obviously is a great number. If you want to slow them down keep him from dictating the game. How the Reds deal with Doucoure will go a long way as to how this game will go. Richarlison is another player that has received headlines this year. He has 5 goals and 4 assists and the 20 year old Brazilian is rumored to be a hot commodity for bigger clubs as we head into the summer.
This is the second meeting of the season between the two if you can remember back to opening day when the Reds gave up an equalizer back at the death for a 3-3 draw, a goal which Watford was 100% offsides and may have committed a foul, it was the first of many times where Liverpool fans felt cheated this season. But this one was clear offsides which was a real maddening way to start the season. This game also illustrated early the defensive issues that would define Liverpool during the early part of the season. This was a wild game with Liverpool coming back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits before Robert Firmino scored on a penalty in the 55th minute and Mo Salah opened his Liverpool account in the 57th minute. This was the debut of the big 3 and in addition of Mane scoring in the first half it was a sign of things to come with the special performances these 3 would come up with this season. At times it was your typical Liverpool game especially at the early part of the season. At one point they were dazzling you and at this next moment you were ready to kill them for their mistakes. It also was a sign of things to come with the Liverpool midfield and how inconsistent they would be all season. This was a poor day for the midfield 3 of Wijnaldum, Henderson, and Can something we would see too much of this season and something that still isn’t good enough in my opinion and something that has to be fixed in the offseason. Yes, Naby Keita will help and will walk into this team as maybe the best player on the squad, but the midfield still needs 1 starter for sure this summer if not 2 in addition to Keita if we want to be taken seriously and not the new Arsenal who can finish top 4 but nothing else beyond that.
The Reds come into this game without any significant injuries. If I were Jurgen Klopp this is how I would go with things. Karius, Gomez (Get Gomez back in there, but after TAA’s tough showing against United, part of me says go back to TAA to show him you believe in him and allow him to get that bad taste out of his mouth, but I think this team is going to need Gomez at some point, get him back in there for this game) van Dirk, Lovren, Robertson, Henderson (Klopp made a huge mistake not starting him against United but it goes with the inconsistency of this midfield, you seriously don’t know what you’re getting from one game to the next) Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Salah, Firmino, Mane.
This is a dangerous team if you’re not paying attention, but this team has so many injuries and they don’t defend well. The teams Liverpool tend to struggle with are the park the bus type teams, that isn’t Watford, honestly this is the best type of matchup for Liverpool to face coming off of a loss. If Liverpool shows up and plays well they will have no issues, they have come back strong off of a loss all season I have no reason not to think it won’t happen again. My prediciton: Liverpool 4-0.