Opinion: How many points should Liverpool pocket in the next six games?

Opinion: How many points should Liverpool pocket in the next six games?

On paper, Liverpool's immediate fixture list looks good, but there are no easy teams in the Premier League and everyone has to be taken seriously - so what Liverpool should expect going into November?

Ben Lockett

Liverpool may not be a calming watch, but they are undoubtedly entertaining, scoring as many goals as possible without impacting, often unsuccessfully, at the other end of the pitch.

Jürgen Klopp’s team and tactics are different to Brendan Rodgers’, but their basic strength and weakness remain the same – fabulous attack, suspect defence.

Examining this in detail would reveal that Klopp’s men are weaker at set-pieces and stronger as an overall defensive unit compared to the 2014 side that went so close to winning the league title.

However, when you witness James McArthur’s first goal for Crystal Palace on Saturday night, convincing yourself that this is a team ready to challenge for the Premier League crown remains difficult with such a susceptible back-line.

In fairness to Dejan Lovren, whose awful looped pass allowed McArthur an easy header at an open goal (helped by Loris Karius’ poor decision-making), the Croatian did immediately reply with a goal of his own to restore Liverpool’s lead.

Yet such redemption will be hard to replicate on a regular basis, so Liverpool cannot continue allowing opposition sides back into football matches.

They were given a fright by Leicester City at Anfield after Lucas Leiva committed an even more suicidal mistake to hand Jamie Vardy a goal on a plate, though eventually the Reds came through in a 4-1 win.

Likewise, Liverpool’s attacking prowess saw off Crystal Palace for a 4-2 victory, but if their offensive weapons begin to misfire, then the defence has to cut out the errors.

For Liverpool to remain in the title race, a favourable amount of points will need to be collected from their upcoming six games, with no fellow title contenders to think about.

Nevertheless, underestimating so-called ‘lesser’ sides is what often sees Liverpool ending up outside the Champions League places, so knowing the challenge of these next six teams remains paramount:

Watford (home)

The final fixture before the international break, Watford will travel to Anfield full of confidence. Having only lost once in their last seven league matches, Walter Mazzarri has his new side already above Manchester United, occupying seventh place in the Premier League.

The Hornets admittedly made a strong start to the first half of last season as well before falling away, although the FA Cup run was an significant distraction. Yet they have produced some eye-catching results already, most notably the 3-1 victory over Jose Mourinho’s side at Vicarage Road.

With Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo, Watford will always present a threat upfront, although Ighalo is continuing to struggle in 2016. But Mazzarri’s system has also lessened the burden on the frontmen, with the side appearing more balanced in recent weeks.

With home fixtures against Leicester and Stoke City to follow the international break, Watford will be aware they will have chances to add points immediately following their trip to Anfield, which should ease the pressure and make them even more dangerous.

Southampton (away)

Probably the toughest test of these upcoming matches, Southampton continue to chop and change players and managers every summer yet remain in the top half of the league table.

With Claude Puel following in the footsteps of Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman, the Saints have maintained a focus on youth and bargain buys, particularly on players frustrated at bigger clubs.

Their reputation for development is now renowned, hence the likes of Nathan Redmond, Oriol Romeu and Ryan Bertrand continuing their careers on the south coast.

Both their home record and recent league form had been promising, with away draws against Leicester and Manchester City, alongside a thumping win at West Ham, and home victories over Burnley and Sunderland.

Everything was going smoothly – until this weekend’s defeat to Chelsea.

Southampton’s defence continues to be one of the best in the league, arguably behind only Tottenham, but Antonio Conte’s side proved it is possible to travel to St Mary’s Stadium and come away with the three points. Liverpool know this themselves, having prevailed on three successive occasions before losing 3-2 in March after being 2-0 up at the break.

Consequently, the Reds are already aware any lapses in concentration against Puel’s men could be costly, but Charlie Austin is their only reliable finisher and the Reds should be able to box Southampton in with their quick movement and passing, and eventually break through their resolute backline.

Sunderland (home)

David Moyes will be praying his team picks up some more points ahead of visiting Liverpool at Anfield, with his side having made the worst start to Premier League season by any club since the league was revamped over two decades ago.

With only two points so far, even Sunderland are setting the bar low for themselves as they attempt yet another annual miraculous escape from relegation certainty.

However, you can only continue avoiding the edge for so long, especially when Sunderland’s team remains as poor as it is, continually making the same mistakes.

Jermain Defoe can certainly score a goal, but he is now 34, and there is little quality throughout the rest of the team, so Moyes, if he did not already know it, has a colossal job on his hands to turn things around in the north east.

Liverpool at their best should enjoy a comfortable victory against the Black Cats but again concentration and avoiding complacency are key.

Bournemouth (away)

A reunion with Jordon Ibe beckons for Liverpool when they travel to face Eddie Howe’s hugely admired and attractive outfit.

After avoiding the drop in their first season, sticking to their expansive style of football, Howe has maintained standards superbly, and even lifted them, with the Cherries currently occupying a place in the top ten.

A four-game unbeaten run, including a 6-1 home thrashing of Hull City, came to an end on Saturday when they lost at Middlesbrough, but Bournemouth remain full of goals and can keep clean sheets as well (something Liverpool need to replicate), having done so against West Bromwich Albion, Everton and Tottenham.

Any clash between Bournemouth and Liverpool should produce a wonderful match on the eye, but Dean Court is a tough place to go and Liverpool did well to come away with 2-1 victory in April.

They would gladly take an identical scoreline, even if the clean sheet remained elusive.

West Ham United (home)

Few would have predicted West Ham’s start to the season, after a top seven finish in Slaven Bilic’s debut year with the club.

Moving into the Olympic Stadium was meant to be a momentous occasion, but it has instead been marked with defeats both on and off the pitch, and only a few weeks ago the Hammers appeared in disarray.

Yet their form has picked up since, with league wins over Crystal Palace and Sunderland alongside eliminating Chelsea from the League Cup, before a 2-0 loss at Everton.

West Ham are unlikely to remain near the bottom for long, given the quality in their squad, especially going forward. Andre Ayew, Andy Carroll, Diafra Sakho, Manuel Lanzini, Sofiane Feghouli and, most notably, Dimitri Payet – Bilic has plenty of weapons at his disposal, if he can keep them fit.

Once West Ham gain momentum, then we will see displays that Liverpool fans especially are accustomed to, with the Hammers doing the league double over Liverpool last season in comprehensive fashion (5-0 on aggregate).

Moreover, they knocked out the Reds in the FA Cup, so Liverpool from experience alone should not underestimate West Ham at Anfield, regardless of their recent form.

Middlesbrough (away)

Plenty sat up and took notice of Middlesbrough’s transfer activity over the summer, with plenty of faces brought in, but especially figures such as Victor Valdes, Alvaro Negredo and Victor Fischer grabbing the eye.

With players of such quality and experience, Middlesbrough seemed well-positioned to survive their first season back in the Premier League for seven years.

Yet results were going against Aitor Karanka until very recently, where an excellent and perhaps unfortunate draw away to Arsenal was followed by a home victory over Bournemouth, and Middlesbrough now sit in fourteenth position, just the sort of mid-table place they would have been hoping for.

To maintain that place for the rest of the campaign, they will need a few more goals and wins than the nine and two they currently have respectively.

Last time Liverpool visited the Riverside Stadium, they came away with a 2-0 defeat that arguably was the crucial blow in the title race with Manchester United in 2009.

They will not want a repeat, as they chase the title again this year.