Our performance away to Watford last December was one of the worst of Jürgen Klopp’s opening months in the Liverpool job. The 3-0 loss at Vicarage Road got underway when Adam Bogdan, in for Simon Mignolet who was out injured, dropped the ball and allowed Nathan Ake to score after just three minutes. Odion Ighalo then scored a brace and after the game he and his fellow striker Troy Deeney spoke about how easy it was to muscle Liverpool’s two central defenders off the ball.
The Reds made up for the loss last May when they beat the Hornets 2-0 at Anfield, but the loss still rankled. In his press conference today Klopp confirmed that the best thing about the day in December was that it was the club’s Christmas Party that night and that everyone had fun. In retrospect it could be seen as the moment the German started to change attitudes around Anfield. The players feared the party would be cancelled because of the result but instead the manager sent a text out saying “Whatever we do, we do together. Tonight that means we party”. Can Liverpool have a party this weekend?
James Milner missed the game against Crystal Palace last weekend with a bug. It has emerged that other players have since been struck down by the same problem, with both Emre Can and Gini Wijnaldum being sent home from Melwood when they had problems for fear that they might end up giving it to other people. All thee players have been back in full training over the last day or so, though, and the manager confirmed today that everyone is fit for the weekend provided nothing changes between now and Sunday. That’s apart from Danny Ings, obviously, but the striker was never going to be in the team anyway.
The good thing from Klopp’s point of view is that Alberto Moreno proved when he deputised for Milner at the weekend that he’s developed a lot as a player in his time out of the side. The Spaniard was excellent going forward against the Eagles and wasn’t overly terrible at the back, although it’s fair to say he was less impressive in the second-half than he was in the first. No coincidence when you consider that we were on the front foot for the first 45 minutes and he could cut loose in attack but needed to sit deeper and actually defend in the second period.
The two biggest decisions facing Klopp, then, are whether to bring ‘Milly’ back into the side and whether he should go with Can or Wijnaldum. Can seems to be his player of choice, coming back in against United when Gini was injured and keeping his place for the league matches since. I personally prefer the former Newcastle man as I believe he helps us turn possession over quicker, but the manager may stick with his compatriot for the foreseeable future. I would be surprised if the team was anything other than as follows: Karius – Clyne – Matip – Lovren – Milner – Henderson – Can – Lallana – Mané – Coutinho – Firmino.
Watford’s team picks itself almost as clearly as Liverpool’s does. The Hornets are in a good way at the moment and Walter Mazzarri will be wary of changing a formula that’s working. He does have something of a mounting injury list, however. They are likely to be without Stefano Okaka, Dja Djédjé, Kenedy, Sebastian Prödl, Isaac Success, and Craig Cathcart. That said, only Prödl was in the starting XI for the side that beat Hull 1-0 last weekend, so there are no major losses there.
If Mazzarri does as I suspect and goes with the strongest side he’s got available to him then I’d be expecting the same line-up that beat the Tigers, with the exception of Christian Kabasele replacing Prödl. Gun to my head I would suggest that their team will line up like this on Sunday: Gomes – Kabasele – Kaboul – Britos – Amrabat – Pereyra – Behrami – Capoue – Holebas – Ighalo – Deeney.
Liverpool’s form continues to impress. Klopp said in his press conference today that he expects to win every game and that to think ’23 points from 30 is ok’ would be wrong as he wants 30 from 30. It’s unlikely that we’ll win every game between now and May but we’re unbeaten in eleven games in all competitions having only lost once so far this season. Along with Arsenal we are the form team right now and Mazzarri will almost certainly have spent the week tossing and turning when considering how to deal with us.
That said, the Hornets are doing well themselves right now. They sit above both Manchester United and the defending Premier League champions Leicester City in the table, so they will be quietly confident about getting a result at Anfield. They’ve lost just one of their last seven, beating the aforementioned United along the way. They’ve also kept a clean sheet in their last three games, so anyone expecting a walkover here might be in for a rude awakening.
I find myself in a funny position over this game. I do think it will be a tricky one for the Reds, but I’m not sure whether that’s just because I’m still not used to us being a really good team that can deal with everything thrown at it. Regardless, here are the bets I’m recommending:
A Tight Affair…With 3 Points For Liverpool
One the one hand I think we will have too much for Watford. On the other, I can’t help but notice that they’ve tightened things up at the back in recent times and so far this season they’ve taken points off a strong Southampton side, given Chelsea a run for their money and beaten our friends from Manchester quite convincingly. I don’t think it will be a runaway scoreline for the Reds but I do think we’ll have too much for them and that our attack will cause them problems.
I feel a little bit like a broken record at the moment, but I think our amazing attack combined with our defence looking consistently brittle from set-pieces means that Both Teams To Score & Liverpool To Win at 9/5 is a decent bet. The Reds have also won both halves in five of their last seven outings, so 8/5 for Liverpool To Win Both Halves this time around also looks tempting. If you think that there could be an upset then the fact that Watford are 10/1 To Win or 5/1 To Draw might just be worth a punt.
Who Will Be On The Scoresheet?
Odion Ighalo scored fifteen times for Watford last season, with his strike partner Troy Deeney getting on the scoresheet on thirteen occasions. The former has only scored once so far in the league and the latter has managed to find the net three times. Both of Watford’s Strikers Are 7/2 To Score Anytime and when you consider that their strengths are our weaknesses that seems like the market is being generous. Etienne Capoue is the surprise top-scorer for the Hornets and so 8/1 For Capoue To Score Anytime also looks like something worth taking a punt on.
For Liverpool the goals have been coming from all over the park. We are the only side in the league to have six players that have both scored and assisted so far in the league, making it tricky to know exactly who will score the goals. Roberto Firmino caused a mini-Twitter storm last weekend when he appeared to take his top off before the ball had crossed the line when he scored to make it 4-2. Given the football does tend to love a narrative I wouldn’t be shocked to see him score and do some sort of celebration to mock that fact. The Brazilian is Even Money To Score Anytime. If you’d like slightly longer odds then Firmino Is 3/1 To Be FGS.
I’m going about this under the assumption that Watford will be difficult to break down and the Reds will score but not run riot. The Hornets only conceded two goals in the entirety of October after all. If you think that we’ll score a bagful, however, then you might be tempted by the 7/2 available for Liverpool To Win & The Match To Have Over 4.5 Goals. My final shout is for Coutinho To Score From Outside The Area, which is 11/2. The Little Magician is in good form an is due a goal from distance.
I’m going to go for Liverpool To Win & BTTS @ 9/5 for my first main tip. I think this match will give us a scare and that we might win by only one or two goals. I’m also going to plump for Roberto Firmino To Score First, which is 3/1. Whatever you decide, good luck!