Liverpool face Watford at Anfield, off the back of three draws in their last four league games, and holding on to a slender lead at the top of the Premier League. The visitors are in good nick, sitting seventh in the Premier League after a 5-1 win over Cardiff, but have lost six of their seven games against the top six so far this season. So what are some of the key battles that could be important for Liverpool to win the game?
Gini Wijnaldum vs Abdoulaye Doucoure
Watford’s midfield set-up means that it’s hard to single out any individuals for one on one battles, but the midfield battle will be crucial and for Liverpool, that means Gini Wijnaldum needs to have a big game. Gini is a critical player in terms of the intangibles that can decide a game such as this one, and a big part of his game will be stopping Doucoure’s bombastic midfield running. Two of the PL’s best deep-lying dribblers, it’ll be interesting to see which of these players can gain a crucial edge.
Virgil Van Dijk vs Troy Deeney
Troy Deeney is one of the most physical strikers in the Premier League, but he won just two of his 18 aerial duels against VVD and Lovren when the sides met back in November. Keeping Deeney out of the game will go a long way towards nullifying Watford, and Deeney has publicly spoken of his hatred of playing Van Dijk – who looked back to his imperious best against Man United. In order for Liverpool to win this game, VVD will have to keep up his form, and not let Deeney get one over on him. A bigger threat might be the pace of Gerard Deulofeu, but VVD’s pace should help him on that front too.
Mo Salah vs Craig Cathcart
Liverpool have won their last three games against Watford a combined 13-1, on top of a 3-0 win earlier this season. One player who seems to love playing against them is Mo Salah – who goes from playing his worst opponent, now 0 in 4 against United, to his favourite. Having scored six goals in his last three games against Watford, and scoring 4 in a 5-0 win at Anfield last season, this game is made for Salah to get between left-back Masina and Craig Cathcart, the pairing that struggled to contain him as the Reds won 3-0 earlier this season at Vicarage Road.
With Roberto Firmino missing, the pressure will be increased on Salah’s head, but there’s no doubt that he’s capable, and at Anfield he loves scoring against sides in the bottom half of the table – having scored nine goals so far this season against sides outside the top six at home from ten games.