As the Premier League season steams into the holiday period, December promises to be really hectic for all the teams but especially those who are either fighting for many trophies and also for those who are already fighting for survival. Two such sides, who are literally poles apart, go head to head on Saturday. League table toppers Liverpool, who have failed to win only one game out of the first 16 games, host Watford, who have managed to win only one game of their first 16 games.
While every other Premier League side’s fan is waiting for Liverpool to slip up, they are being quite adamant about keeping their winning streak alive, especially in the Premier League. They come into this game having secured their place in the Last 16 of the Champions League by beating RB Salzburg 2-0 in Austria on Tuesday night. Two days prior to that, they had beaten Bournemouth 3-0 away from home. Pundits are asking if the Reds can be stopped in any competition. But it is not all fine for Jurgen Klopp’s side. Due to the FIFA Club World Cup, Liverpool are set to play six games in sixteen days starting this Saturday, including two separate squads playing on the same date in two different competitions. On top of this hectic schedule, they are carrying injuries to a few key members of the squad including Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren and Fabinho. Klopp will hope that his squad, with some youth reinforcement, can handle all the games as well as they have so far this season.
Watford have no such worries. They sit at the bottom having won just once in the Premier League this season. They have brought in their third manager for the season in Nigel Pearson and the former Leicester City manager will kickoff his tenure at the helm of Hornets on Saturday at Anfield. He has a mountain of a job to do at Watford in trying to keep them safe at the end of the season but a game at Anfield would not have been the start he would have wanted. Watford are dealing with an injury crisis of their own and Pearson will have his hands full in trying to pinch at least a point from Liverpool.
- Liverpool have won six of their last seven Premier League games against Watford (D1), netting 25 times and conceding just four goals in those matches. In fact, at home Liverpool have not lost to Watford since losing to them 1-0 in1999. They have also scored 20 goals at Anfield and conceded just one.
- Liverpool’s last three home Premier League games against the Hornets have seen them win 6-1, 5-0 and 5-0. No side has ever won four consecutive home games by a margin of 5+ goals against an opponent from the top flight.
- But Liverpool should be wary of a couple of dubious stats against them as well. They are guaranteed to be at the top of the Premier League table on Christmas. However, on the last three occasions when a team topping the table at Christmas failed to win the Premier League, the team in question was Liverpool (2008-09, 2013-14, 2018-19).
- This is the 35th meeting between the top and bottom sides in Premier League history and the side starting top have won 24, drawing six and losing just four. One of those four defeats befell Liverpool, when they lost to Spurs in November 2008.
- Watford have lost their last 12 top-flight matches against teams starting the day top of the league, a run stretching back to 1986. They have lost all 10 of these games in the Premier League.
Jurgen Klopp will be forced to rotate his squad in upcoming games and one such rotation can be expected upfront, whereby he might replace Salah with Shaqiri. The Swiss international scored in the last game he started – against Everton at home earlier this month. His xG90 of 0.45 and xA90 of 0.11 are not exceptional but they do indicate a strong possibility of a goal contribution from Shaqiri, if he were to play the entire 90 minutes. If Klopp rests Salah, he will hope that Shaqiri will be able to plug the gap with a goal or two.
In a team that has scored merely 9 goals in 16 games, Gerard Deulofeu has contributed 4 – scoring 2 and assisting 2. The former Everton player boasts an xG90 + xA90 of 0.48, which means that there is a 49% chance of him scoring if he plays all 90 minutes. Nigel Pearson will hope that Deulofeu plays Saturday’s game as if he is playing a Merseyside derby, as his side will need a goal or two to even think about pinching points from Liverpool.
For Liverpool, Dejan Lovren has pulled up in two consecutive games now it is now confirmed that he will sit out of this game with a thigh injury. Joel Matip and Fabinho are also not available, meaning that Joe Gomez will have to step into the centreback role. Xherdan Shaqiri, Divock Origi, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner are among those who could come into the side. Possible Liverpool starting lineup for Sunday: Alisson; Trent, Gomez, van Dijk, Roberston; Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Milner; Shaqiri, Firmino, Origi.
For Watford, Jose Holebas, Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley and Sebastian Prodl are unavailable due to injuries, while Craig Dawson and Daryl Janmaat will be assessed with respective head and knee injuries before the game. Possible starting lineup for the Hornets could be: Foster; Femenia, Kabasele, Cathcart, Masina; Capoue, Doucoure; Sarr, Pereyra, Deulofeu; Deeney
Liverpool have looked very strong in the last few games and it will be a huge upset if Watford are able to take even a point home on Saturday.
Liverpool 3 – 0 Watford