And just like that, football proper is back. After a period where Will Smith slapped a comedian, financial fair play got torn up, and Harry Maguire got booed by England fans, both Liverpool and Watford will be desperate for three points.
Roy Hodgson has given Watford a glimmer of hope, will a slightly more resilient team looking to maintain their Premier League status. With their last outing seeing them record a win away at Southampton, the long build up to this game will surely be all about limiting Liverpool’s attacking threat. With three points separating them and Everton (in 17th place), Watford will need to be both well structured and able to break quickly.
Jeremy Ngakia should be ready to return, with Nicolas Nkoulou also available. The team which won at St Mary’s will surely repeat itself, though Josh King will be hoping for a recall. A rigid 4-5-1 system will see space restricted, and a low block incorporated. The pace of Emmanuel Dennis will be Hodgson’s most viable weapon, with possession set to be very lopsided.
Liverpool have momentum, a few players rested, and a real desire to run over every team in their path. Trent Alexander-Arnold could return, after an injury sustained prior to his International call up, but may also be held back for Manchester City next week. Naby Keita and James Milner should be back from their issues, and Andy Robertson should regain his role as a starter. The defence will see Virgil partnered by Joel Matip, with rotation then being considered before the midweek game, away to Benfica. The midfield should see Thiago Alcantara partner Fabinho, with Jordan Henderson completing the trio.
The Reds’ attack offers perhaps the most competition right now. Mohamed Salah will start from the right, with Luis Diaz the likely starter off the left. Down the middle is where Jurgen Klopp will have the biggest decisions this week, with Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino all vying to start. A week where Watford, Benfica and finally Manchester City will be faced, means choices will surely be based on the opposition at hand. Sadio Mane probably starts this game, with the new preferred front three deployed each weekend.
Liverpool can go top, and Watford can match Everton’s points tally with a win. The early kick off means much is riding on the game, and based upon that, Anfield’s intensity will likely see the home side prevail. A plethora of attacking assets will be at the Reds’ disposal, and Liverpool will look to start the game fast. Set pieces will be vital at both ends, and should mean a variation in chances created.
Player to watch – Luis Diaz
Liverpool 3 – 0 Watford