Watford vs. Liverpool
| Saturday, February 29th |
Premier League | Vicarage Road
5:30PM GMT / 12:30PM EST
Liverpool are on the road again this weekend. Jürgen Klopp’s team travel to Watford on Saturday determined to bring Liverpool another three points closer to securing the Premier League title. Just four wins separate the Reds from their status as champions, stepping passed Watford would bring it down to three.
Nigel Pearson has managed to positively change the way Watford play since his arrival in December but movement up the table has been a struggle for the club. And they shouldn’t expect to turn their story around against Liverpool. The Hornet’s haven’t been lucky with results against the Reds for quite some time.
Liverpool have scored loads of goals against Watford over the last several seasons. In the nine matches that Klopp has faced Watford, Liverpool have scored 27 times. Mohamed Salah put two passed Ben Foster in December. Sadio Mané has contributed with either a goal or an assist every time he’s played Watford.
Despite his team’s lowly position, Pearson has pulled off a few points heists against good teams. A win against Manchester United, a win against Wolves, and a draw with Spurs. All of those results came at Vicarage Road and his side will cling to that connection with their home support in order to get something from Liverpool.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-2-3-1)
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Firmino, Mané; Salah
It’s no secret that Jordan Henderson and James Milner are not available for Klopp this weekend. Neither is Xherdan Shaqiri, if you were wondering, though I know you weren’t. Otherwise, the manager has a strong squad from which to create his XI at Watford.
In the reverse fixture, Shaqiri started in an attacking position on the right with Mo moving into a more center forward role. This 4-2-3-1 formation could open up an opportunity to get Takumi Minamino onto the pitch in that same position. Although I have a feeling Klopp would choose Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, instead. Which is great. But also, give us Minamino or we will scream.
In this formation, Fabinho and Gini Wijnaldum would hold down the midfield getting support from Roberto Firmino dropping deep without the ball. Sadio plays as usual.
The defense would seem to pick itself given Klopp has run with Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk for so long. But Joël Matip is back and in need of match fitness. I think there’s a slim possibility that Gomez gets a rest at Watford and Matip comes in alongside Van Dijk. Or Klopp may prefer to give Matip a starting spot at Chelsea in Tuesday’s FA Cup 5th round match. Although, that team sheet could have Dejan Lovren written all over it.
Liverpool have struggled in their last two road games. Norwich City was a difficult win that needed a late goal from Mané to break the deadlock and Atlético Madrid was a frustrating loss where Klopp’s team failed to penetrate a compact defense.
Watford will be another test for Liverpool’s creative problem solving. Dominance will be important to wearing out the focus and confidence of Pearson’s team but quick movement and sharp thinking are critical if Liverpool hope to get passed the physical block of Watford.
What the Managers Said
Jürgen Klopp: “We have to be 100% ready for these fights. And that’s what I love most about my boys, that they are ready to fight.”
Nigel Pearson: “We don’t like losing any game but we know we are certainly going to have to be at our best to give ourselves an opportunity in this game for sure.”
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistant referees: Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett
Fourth official: Jonathan Moss
VAR: Mike Dean
Assistant VAR: Darren Cann
Kickoff is set for 5:30PM GMT/12:30PM 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.