Venue – Vicarage Road
Referee – Anthony Taylor
Date & Time – Saturday, August 12th @ 12:30pm BST
The first weekend of the Premier League season is upon us, along with all of its wonderful unpredictability. Most Reds fans will have been well tuned into the pre-season friendlies. What we have seen no doubt has us excited for the season ahead, however, this Watford team has undergone a serious facelift from when we met them last.
Walter Mazzarri, like Flores before him, was only granted one season in the hot seat at Watford. His replacement after last season’s 17th-placed finish is Marco Silva. Silva was hired from Hull City, after just falling short in his attempt to save Hull from relegation, collecting 21 points from the 18 matches he was in charge of. This, when compared to the 13 points the team had achieved from their previous 20 games, was a great achievement and deserving of higher recognition. In my view, Silva may well turn out to be one of the appointments of the summer. The Portuguese coach will be hoping to impress the Pozzo’s at Vicarage Road and if recent times are anything to go by, well, he may just have this one season to ply his trade with the Hornets.
Klopp’s main concern at the moment must be ensuring that the club holds onto Philippe Coutinho for at least one more year. Salah and Solanke have settled in better than anyone could have hoped, and the development of youngsters such as Joe Gomez, Ben Woodburn and Ryan Kent has also helped to add quality to the bench.
Being the first game of the league there is no form guide as such to refer to. In pre-season, Watford did not set the world alight. Their two most recent games both ended as 0-0 draws against Aston Villa and Real Sociedad.
Liverpool impressed during the summer buildup, most notably in their domination of Bayern at the Allianz Arena last week. The pace Salah and Mane now offer to Klopp’s team on the counter-attack is electrifying. However, as we know since last season, ‘lesser’ teams, such as Watford, will not attack Liverpool in the same way that a team such as Bayern does. Therefore, they will not be leaving any space to be exploited at the back. Liverpool struggled against this last season.
Silva has brought in Richarlison (Brazilian forward), Tom Cleverley, Will Hughes, Nathaniel Chalobah, and Kiko Femenia, among others. Mario Suarez and Juan Carlos Paredes are the only outgoings of note for Watford this summer. Troy Deeney may not have fully recovered from a groin injury in time for Saturday’s game.
Clyne is still only on his way back from injury while Lallana joined him on the injury list this week. Lallana’s quad injury is expected to rule him out until October at least. At the time of writing it is expected that Henderson will be available, however, Coutinho looks as if he is going to miss out. Let’s just hope it is this back injury we’ve been hearing about and not further negotiations with Barcelona, although Wednesday night’s news of the latest rejected Barca bid makes it look more and more like Coutinho is staying, for one more year at least. Sturridge will most likely miss out altogether. Klopp has brought in Dominic Solanke, Andy Robertson, and Mo Salah. Liverpool have sold Lucas Leiva and Kevin Stewart.
I can see Klopp sticking with Milner at left-back, just to try start on a solid, if unremarkable footing. Emre Can may well deputise in midfield instead of Coutinho.
Watford XI: Gomes, Janmaat, Kaboul, Prodl, Holebas, Doucoure, Chalobah, Amrabat, Cleverley, Pereyra, Richarlison
Liverpool XI: Mignolet, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Lovren, Milner, Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mane
When they last met
Who could forget Emre Can’s scissors-kick winner on May 1st? It was 1-0 to Liverpool that night and 6-1 to the Reds at Anfield earlier in the season. The season before that, however, was probably one of the poorest Liverpool performances under Klopp. Watford won 3-0 that day, and Troy Deeney delighted in letting the world know how Watford had ‘bullied’ Liverpool that day.
Prediction: Watford 1 – 2 Liverpool
Liverpool to just about get the job done, without the little magician.