Playing a bottom-half side on the road in the Premier League can be a potential “banana peel” at the best of times, but that threat can be exacerbated by the appointment of a new manager.
This is the exact challenge facing Liverpool today, one made even worse by the absence of key players due to international travel restrictions, the dreaded early kickoff after an international break, and the manager Watford have appointed: Claudio Ranieri.
Ranieri, it’s fair to say, has been around the block a few times, including in the rough and tumble Premier League. Most notably, Ranieri oversaw the miraculous 2015/16 Leicester City campaign, which saw them crowned as league champions.
After a few years back in Italy with Roma and Sampdoria, Renieri is back to try his luck with Watford.
“He is a great manager obviously, worked all over the world,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told the official club website. “Last club was again really successful, reinvented himself again, which is absolutely great.
“I don’t think he will care too much about who he is playing in the first game, he is just busy with preparing the team and they will go for everything.
“The preparation was now obviously slightly different, we actually watched more situations of Sampdoria games than Watford games to prepare the Watford game because obviously Claudio has a specific way, how he is usually doing.
“But the main message for this game for us is we have to focus on ourselves – not only because we don’t know what the opponent is doing but as well because of that.”
The lack of information, specifically how Ranieri will adapt his system to fit the personnel available at Watford, is a big challenge for the Liverpool backroom staff to overcome.
Despite all the disadvantages of playing Watford on the road, with the early kickoff, with a new manager, and without several key players, Liverpool are still the favorites. However, even if the Reds escape Vicarage Road with all three points, it likely won’t be easy.
Hopefully Klopp’s Reds can avoid the “new manager bounce” this time around, and leave Ranieri and Watford to take a few other, non-Liverpool, scalps along the way.