The first game week after the second international break of the season sees the clash of two teams were said to have similar styles of play but find themselves at the opposite ends of the table. Led by two close friends, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool travel to Huddersfield Town to take on David Wagner’s team on Saturday evening. Liverpool have not lost a Premier League game yet this season and Huddersfield have not won any. It is fair to say that the matchup seems to be very one—sided but this is the Premier League and a surprise is never very far away in this league.
It is fair to say that Huddersfield have had a wretched start to the season. By Saturday, they would have played the current top four already. No one expected them to work wonders against Chelsea, City or Spurs. But a home loss to Crystal Palace and a draw to Cardiff must rankle a bit. Their last six matches include three draws and three losses. Currently sitting in the 18th place, the Terriers need to bring back performances like last year if they are to survive the much-predicted relegation. Unfortunately, their next opponents will not give them too much hope.
Liverpool are still unbeaten in the league and are sitting joint top (in 3rd place) with 20 points out of 24 possible. But, despite the superlative results this season, Liverpool have their troubles – especially in attack. Their attackers are nowhere near the form of last year and their midfield also looks out of sorts. Defenders have carried the Reds thus far and Klopp will hope that at least they do not falter in form. Liverpool have not won in last four matches in all competitions, losing two and drawing two. But, those matches included two against Chelsea and one each against City and Napoli – nothing similar to Huddersfield. This international break has also had a toll on Klopp’s side, with Salah, Mane, Keita and Virgil van Djik all injured and taken off during their international games. Despite all those challenges, Klopp will be keen to win on Saturday as by the time these two teams meet, it is possible that a resurgent Manchester United would have thrown a spanner in Chelsea’s progress.
- Huddersfield lost both their games to Liverpool last season by 3-0. The Terriers managed only one shot on target across the two matches. They also attempted only six shots in total.
- The Terriers are finding it hard to score – they have not scored in any of their four home games this season and if they fail to score on Saturday, they will equalise the record set by Everton in 1998-1999. They have also not scored in last six Premier League games. It is unbelievable now but only Manchester City (2006-07) have had a longer (8 games) such spell.
- Liverpool are unbeaten in 12 matches in all competitions against Huddersfield (W9 D3 L0) and have not conceded a single goal to the Terriers in last seven matches. They are also unbeaten in their last nine league matches (W7 D2 L0)
- But, under Klopp, Liverpool have also lost five of their nine away Premier League games against teams starting the day in the relegation zone (P9 W2 D2 L5) and have not won any of their last six such games (W0 D2 L4).
Hoping to outscore Liverpool, even in this form, is almost unthinkable for Huddersfield. What Wagner can hope for is that his defense will stand up to a struggling Liverpool attack and hopefully not allow them to score. The man Wagner will count on to lead the defence is Zanka. The centre half played each and every minute of league football for Huddersfield last season and has already started seven times this season. This season, he has started combatively, already gathering four yellow cards in seven starts. However, it is that combative style of defending that could deter Liverpool’s attack. This season, he has put in 9.5 clearances, blocks, interceptions per game and Wagner will need more of those from him on Saturday.
As if being out of form was not enough, Liverpool’s attackers had a horrible international break. Salah and Mane are both doubtful for Saturday’s game, which could give some game time to Xherdan Shaqiri. The Swiss winger has played only 96 minutes of league football so far but has already provided an assist. His xG + xA per 90 minutes amounts to 0.60, which means that he should contribute a goal every third game, if he plays all 90 minutes. Shaqiri is also instrumental in moving the ball forward, indicated by his xGBuildup, which is the total xG of all his possession instances without counting key passes and shots, per 90 minutes is 0.38. A good performance from him on Saturday, if he is given the chance, can assure Klopp of the quality of his bench.
For Huddersfield, Terence Kongolo is ruled out, while Ramadan Sobhi, Danny Williams, Philip Billing, Chris Löwe and Tommy Smith are all doubts. Christopher Schindler recovered from injury to start for Huddersfield before the international break, but Aaron Mooy was forced to pull out of Australia’s squad during the international.
For Liverpool, this international break has upset many a plan that Klopp might have had. Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah, Naby Keita and Sadio Mane all returned with injuries. However, only Keita and Mane are expected to miss out. Milner has reportedly made a rapid recovery and could make Liverpool’s matchday squad on Saturday night. Depending on Milner’s availability, Fabinho could make his Premier League debut. Trent Alexander-Arnold could also return to the starting XI after dropping to the bench against Manchester City before the international break.
Nothing suggests that Huddersfield will give any trouble to Liverpool, even if Reds rest many of the doubtful regulars. Liverpool should be able to keep their unbeaten record alive and in fact should be able to win for the first time in five games.
Huddersfield 0 – 2 Liverpool