Liverpool travel to Vicarage Road on Saturday to take on Watford, as the Premier League resumes after the international break. Liverpool lie second on the table on 15 points, a point behind leaders Chelsea, whilst The Hornets lie 15th with 7 points. Watford sacked coach Xisco Munoz and replaced him with Italian Claudio Ranieri over the break. The 69 year old returns to England after his unforgettable stint at Leicester City.
Watford will hope they enjoy a new manager bounce against the Reds, and with it being an early kickoff straight after the international break, it has the feel of a potential banana skin. It also doesn’t help that it’s the scene of the demise of our last great unbeaten run. We went to Watford on 29th February, 2020 still without a defeat in the Premier League; 27 games played, 26 wins and a draw at Old Trafford.
An Ismaila Sarr masterclass later and we left for Merseyside stung by a 3-0 defeat. Go back two years prior, and it was also the scene of a frustrating 3-3 draw. That game actually marked Mohamed Salah’s debut for the club and saw the Egyptian open his account. We lost 3-0 at Vicarage Road in December 2015 too, when an Adam Bogdan disaste-rclass set the tone for a harrowing experience as Odion Ighalo tormented our backline.
At Anfield, the story is completely different as we usually dish out beatings of our own. Claudio Ranieri’s return adds another layer to the whole setup as he has a very good record at home to Liverpool. Ranieri has won 4 of the 5 Premier League home games he’s managed against the Reds. On Saturday, Liverpool will travel once again to Vicarage Road with an unbeaten run to protect.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are unbeaten in their last 17 Premier League games (20 in all competitions), and there will obviously be flashbacks to that defeat last year which ended a 44 Premier League game unbeaten streak as well as an 18 consecutive win streak. Watford come into this game winless in their last 3 however, going down 1-0 to Leeds United in their last outing, whereas Liverpool are hoping to bounce back from consecutive draws.
For Watford, Joshua King (knee) has returned to training and is expected to be available. Francisco Sierralta (hamstring), Christian Kabasele (hamstring) and Peter Etebo (quad) remain out. For Liverpool, Harvey Elliott (ankle) and Thiago (muscle) are out through injury, whilst Alisson Becker and Fabinho are touch and go to be involved as they’re not even back from international duty yet.
The Senegalese will carry the threat for Watford on Saturday. So far this season, he’s played every minute in the Premier League and is their top-scorer with 4 goals. He’s recorded the most shots, the most shots on target, the most dribbles, the most shot creating actions and the most progressive carries amongst the Watford squad. He’s scored the most goals for the club (21) since he joined in the summer of 2019.
The Egyptian has scored 8 goals in his 6 appearances in the Premier League against Watford. He’s in sensational form right now, with his goal against City taking him joint top of the goal standings (6 – level with Jamie Vardy). He’s recorded the most shots on target (16) in the entire division, the most touches in the opposition box (67), as well as the most successful key passes (10). Expect him to be heavily involved.
Another Senegalese to keep an eye on is Liverpool’s number 10. Mané has been involved in 9 goals in 7 Premier League games against Watford for Liverpool (5 goals, 4 assists). His tally of 4 assists is the most he’s provided against a single opponent. He’s also in good form as he’s netted 4 goals in 7 games in the Premier League, as well as a goal and 3 assists in two games for Senegal during the break.
With it being the first game of the weekend, a win will send Liverpool top of the league as Chelsea travel to Brentford later in the day (and we know how tricky that is). Manchester United also travel to Leicester City, whilst Manchester City welcome Burnley to the Etihad for their annual 5-0 drubbing. An upset or two could be on the cards, and like every weekend since late 2018, Liverpool have to win.