This is one of those previews I don’t want to write, but the outcome is inevitable. Unfortunately, no matter what angle I explore this game, I see a Liverpool victory. Last season in this fixture, to open the 2017/18 season, Watford played Liverpool to a 3-3 draw, with a 90th minutes Miguel Britos goal. The return fixture wasn’t as favorable, as a heavy dose of Mo Salah, left, right and center, hitting for four goals, in a 5-0 victory at Anfield.
While the Golden Boys have got off to their best start ever in the Premier League, they still aren’t to the level of the top six, a measure of just how good all the other Premier League clubs are. Watford sit on 20 points, good for 7th in the league table, while Liverpool chase City, with 30 points. Beyond being in the top half of the table, comparisons end there.
While the Reds continue to win, to keep pace with City, Watford have struggled recently. Dropping points away to Newcastle in a 1-0 loss and only coming away from Southampton with a single point, in a 1-1 draw has called into question the fact they are having trouble putting teams away. Over the last two game weeks, Watford have a 25% shot accuracy with a 3.6% goal conversion. They have mustered 28 goal attempts, but just 7 on target. It’s a problem that continues to plague the Hornets.
While the defense is substantially improved since last year, led by Ben Foster even though he’s got just three clean sheets, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Currently, Watford is the fourth best defense, giving up just 40 shots on target Liverpool is second with 30 on target. Could it be a defensive struggle this weekend at Vicarage Road?
For that to happen, the Hornets need to come out and control the ball and pace of the game. Liverpool has been most dangerous on the counter-attack, led by Mo Salah, the right winger has scored 6 goals on the season and did put four past the Hornets defense earlier this March. The Reds haven’t been as goal happy as City, scoring just twice in game week 12 when they hosted Fulham.
Defensively, Liverpool has arguably been one of the best defenses this season, as they’ve conceded just 5 goals on the season. Cardiff was the only lower league team that was able to get by Alisson. As poorly as Watford is converting, this could be a longer, frustrating game. Gerard Deulofeu has been the most impressive on the ball since returning to fitness.
Across just 306 minutes of play, Deulofeu has 12 attempts on goal, 10 inside the box but just a single goal. He’s looked great on the ball, especially playing off Roberto Pereyra and Will Hughes (questionable). While Isaac Success has started the last 4 games for Javi Gracia, Troy Deeney is fit, as he and Andre Gray have lost time in the starting XI.
The play of Abdoulaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue will be key for Watford if they are to have any chance. At Southampton, Capoue was unavailable due to suspension and his presence in the midfield was missed, as Nathaniel Chalobah wasn’t up to task. These two midfielders can push forward into the attack, while falling back to get numbers behind the ball. Both are integral to the Hornets success.
The Reds have won three games and drawn two over the last five games and are still without a loss on the season. While they haven’t been as dominant as City (23 goals vs 36), they season has been predicated on defense. Sadio Mane and Salah have both scored 6 goals, but Mane production hasn’t been as consistent, but he’s coming off a brace in game week 10, the last time he scored.
Xheridan Shaqiri could gain an important start, as the Austrian has played very well for Liverpool in the last four games for the Reds, picking up two goals and an assist. Watford will have their hands up when Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold join the attack from their wing back positions. Liverpool is fast and precise and play as such.
While I would like to remain positive and hope for a draw against Liverpool, I see this as one-way traffic on Saturday. Prediction for this game Watford 0 Liverpool 3.
WATFORD FANTASY OPTIONS
This week, I can’t justify any assets from Watford for the next three weeks, facing Liverpool this weekend and City, in gameweek 15. Until we see more consistency from the attackers, I could only recommend keeping Deulofeu (£5.4) on the watch list. He has looked the most versatile attacker for the Hornets. We need to see the extent of the Hughes injury and if Javi Gracia moves Deulofeu back out to the right flank and pair Deeney and Gray up top.
Defensive, I sing the praises of Foster (£4.5) but the Hornets defense hasn’t been overly impressive, as witnessed by their 1-0 loss to the Magpies and draw at St Mary’s’, two games that should have been clean sheets. None of the defensive assets look viable. Many continue to look in the direction of Jose Holebas (£4.8), coming off a late goal against the Saints, but hasn’t provided a return since gameweek 4. Kiko Femenia (£4.3) still looks good, but Daryl Janmaat (£4.9) is back in training and could be ready to take the pitch in late November.