The Premier League is becoming a league of reunions of star managers and their assistants. Last season it was Jose Mourinho and Aitor Karanka. This season it is Jurgen Klopp and David Wagner. Klopp’s Liverpool will host Wagner’s Huddersfield on Saturday for the first league match between the two sides in almost 45 years. The two teams are coming from two very unexpected results in the last game week. Liverpool may have expected a tough game at Spurs but not the hiding they received, while Huddersfield might have dreamt of holding off Mourinho’s United for as long as possible but not of winning the match.
For Liverpool Saturday’s game is a must-win. Yes, it is only a league game and not a cup game but Liverpool need to win on Saturday to lift the pall of gloom that has descended on the club and its fans since last Sunday. The Reds have blown hot and cold throughout the early part of this season. Just when it seemed that they had put the early-season jitters behind them as they thrashed NK Maribor by seven goals, they slumped to another big defeat this season. There are huge shadows of doubt over Liverpool’s defense and their midfield is also not as good as last season. The Reds need to win the majority of their games between now and the end of the year if they wish to be serious contenders for top-four spots. This is why Liverpool need to win against a newly promoted side with a shoestring budget.
David Wagner has steered Huddersfield into the Premier League despite the lack of resources and so far, they are holding their own. They were one of the favorites for relegation at the start of the season and if someone had told them that they would be sitting just below Liverpool by the 10th game week, they would have laughed. And yet, that’s where they are. Wagner’s team are fast and sturdy. They showed last week that they can absorb attack after attack from opponents and then counter at a furious speed. While the Terriers are not expected to get anything from Saturday’s game but they are definitely going to make it extremely tough for the Reds.
- Few teams in England can boast of having defeated Liverpool more times than having been beaten by them. Huddersfield are one of those. In 75 matches between these two sides in all competitions, the Terriers have won 31, drawn 17, and lost 27. At Anfield, Huddersfield’s record is 15W, 13L, 10D.
- However, all those victories came a long time back. The last meeting between the two sides was a FA Cup tie in December 1999, which Liverpool won 0-2 at Huddersfield.
- In fact, the last time Huddersfield beat Liverpool was in November 1959 and the last time they achieved that feat at Anfield was in August 1956.
- Despite their heroic victory at home versus Manchester United, Huddersfield are not proving to be great travellers this season. They have not scored a single goal in their last three away matches.
Mohammed Salah was the sole bright light from Liverpool’s horrendous performance at Wembley last Sunday. In Sadio Mane’s absence and in Firmino’s drop of form, Salah remains the focal point of Liverpool’s attacks. His searing pace has made many a defender look foolish this season and while his finishing could be better, he still is Liverpool’s most prolific goal scorer this season so far. With expected goals per 90 minutes of 0.66 and expected assists per 90 minutes of 0.16, it is very likely that Salah will have a role to play in any goals that the Reds score on Saturday. While Jurgen Klopp will have an eye on Salah’s number of minutes, which far exceeds what would have been an expected number, but the German coach needs the Egyptian on Saturday to ensure that Liverpool return to goal scoring and winning ways.
For a smaller team, to beat Liverpool, the template is now set. They need to defend solidly and whenever an opportunity arises they need to attack through tall centre-forwards. This is where last week’s man of the match – Laurent Depoitre will be key for Huddersfield. He is tall and can hold the ball up for the likes of Mooy to join the attack. While Depoitre’s attacking stats are not as good as Salah’s but they are formidable against a defense as weak as Liverpool’s. His expected goals per 90 minutes is 0.17 but he is currently outperforming his overall xG value. Thus, even if he shoots from unfavourable positions, he is able to score. This is ominous for Liverpool who have made a habit of allowing opponents to shoot from some of the best positions on the pitch.
After last week’s horror show, Liverpool are expected to bench Dejan Lovren, while starting with Joe Gomez as the centre-half. This opens up an opportunity for Trent Alexander-Arnold to make another impression on Klopp. Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana and Nathaniel Clyne continue to nurse their injuries and all of them will not be available on Saturday. Given it is a home game, Gini Wijnaldum could also get a chance but whether at James Milner’s expense or Emre Can’s is what needs to be seen.
Huddersfield do not need to make a lot of changes for Saturday. Steve Mounie returned to action last Saturday but will probably need to start on the bench again as Depoitre will start again due to his performance against United. Rajiv van La Parra who was a substitute last season could also get to start at Anfield. Other than these, there might not be too many changes from Huddersfield.
It might be a reunion between two old friends but Saturday’s game is extremely important – at least for Jurgen Klopp. He is not going to tell his team to go easy on his friend’s team. Huddersfield’s pressing might allow Liverpool a bit of a space that they generally do not find against smaller teams but their pace will also test the Reds’ fragile defense. However, given the gulf in the two sides’ inherent qualities, Liverpool should win on Saturday.
Liverpool 2 – 1 Huddersfield