Liverpool vs. Watford
| Saturday, December 14th |
Premier League | Anfield
12:30PM BST / 7:30AM EST
Liverpool have been as successful as Watford have been poor this season. The Hornets have won just a single match and that was against Norwich City who are only one position above them in the table and nearly just as sure to be relegated in May.
Watford recently sacked manager Quique Sanchez Flores and Saturday will be newly appointed boss Nigel Pearson’s first match in charge.
Pearson’s goal is to keep Watford in the Premier League next season. He has a difficult job ahead of him and his task isn’t likely to begin happily at Anfield.
The last three home fixtures with Watford, Liverpool have absolutely obliterated them. Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino all get productive against Watford.
Pearson will be missing defender José Holebas but doesn't have too many injury concerns. Craig Dawson is expected to return to the midfield after recovering from a head injury.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Milner, Lallana; Shaqiri, Origi, Mané
Liverpool have so many positive vibes swirling around right now. Takumi Minamino is expected to be signed in January after he passes a medical. Jürgen Klopp has signed a renewed contract to keep him in the big boss chair until at least 2024. The team is undefeated in their 16 matches played in the league. Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have both rounded into great form just as the team needed them to raise their level.
Watford couldn’t be arriving to Anfield at a worse time with respect to the beginning of their new journey under Pearson. The Hornets aren’t likely to find any joy in Liverpool.
Fabinho and Joël Matip remain out for Liverpool through injury. Klopp also confirmed that Dejan Lovren will miss the Watford match, having sustained a muscle injury against RB Salzburg on Tuesday. Lovren was replaced by Joe Gomez shortly after starting the second half.
That leaves Gomez and Virgil van Dijk has Klopp’s only senior centre-backs. Last year around this time the manager had a similar problem but Fabinho was available and dropped into the defense for a game or two. This year the injury situation is a little more complicated and Klopp may have to begin rotating in his young defenders through the holiday pile-up.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see the manager do a fair bit of rotating in the midfield and forward positions on Saturday. Xherdan Shaqiri and Lallana have both played well recently and are more than capable. James Milner could also return to the XI in order to give one of Gini Wijnaldum or Jordan Henderson a rest.
Beyond Watford is the Carabao Cup match with Aston Villa followed by the Club World Cup games in Qatar. There’s a couple of days rest and then Leicester City away, then Wolves, then Sheffield United, followed by the Everton derby at Anfield on January 5th and then the team can breathe for a minute before launching into the second half of the season.
What the Managers Said
Jürgen Klopp: “I have no interest in stats, not in this case. It’s just like it is, we have to play a lot of games. We have no idea what is in May. I know that we play tomorrow, that is enough. Watford have new manager, we can throw our analysis in the bin!”
Nigel Pearson: “Can we stay up, you’re asking? Yes.”
Referee: Andre Marriner
Assistant referees: Scott Ledger, Simon Long
Fourth official: David Coote
VAR: Jonathan Moss
Assistant VAR: Andy Halliday
Kickoff is set for 12:30PM BST/7:30AM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV.
In the meantime, and as always, we’ll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it’s released, our live matchday thread, and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on the action as it happens.