Watford vs Liverpool Preview: Reds look to continue unbeaten run
Photo via Getty Images/John Powell

Watford vs Liverpool Preview: Reds look to continue unbeaten run

The Hornets will have their work cut out in securing a result come Saturday afternoon against opponents who are yet to taste defeat in the Premier League this season.

Jake Horwood

Watford will surely return to a degree of normality as a buoyant Liverpool side visit Vicarage Road two weeks after the Hornets' controversial 1-1 draw with Southampton.

A first-half opener from Manolo Gabbiadini was cancelled out by Jose Holebas' late deflected strike, but the ultimate talking point from the game stemmed from the decisions of referee Simon Hooper. The man in the middle on the day denied Watford a valid penalty claim and ruled out a seemingly law-abiding Saints goal for offside, sparking an intense and mainly critical debate into the calibre of officials in the Premier League.

Since beginning the season in perfect fashion with four wins from their first four league games, the Hornets have generally maintained a high level of performance. But in recent times they have also rued a number of missed goalscoring chances, an occurrence whose implications grow ever more significant as the tally of supposed 'points dropped' accumulates.

Liverpool had a more straightforward weekend before the recent international break. Goals from Mohamed Salah and Xherdan Shaqiri propelled them to a routine 2-0 victory over early strugglers Fulham, a game in which charismatic manager Jürgen Klopp could only complain that his team failed to score more.

The Reds are one of three teams still harbouring an unbeaten record 12 games into the 2018/19 domestic season, and have the joint-best defensive record in the league having shipped just five goals, all of which makes for unpleasant reading for an often variable Watford side who, admittedly, are no strangers to delivering an upset at their home ground.

Previous meetings

Interestingly, the venue has historically played a key role in the outcome of this fixture.

Of the last three Premier League encounters at Vicarage Road, Watford have taken four points off Liverpool, winning 3-0 in 2015 and earning a 3-3 draw on the opening day of last season. The other meeting resulted in a 1-0 victory for the Reds, in a game when the Hornets were resigned to defeat by a spectacular overhead kick from Emre Can but had good reason to believe they deserved at least a draw from the match.

Meanwhile, Anfield has proved a far more daunting footballing experience for Watford since their promotion in 2015. Losing all three games on Merseyside, conceding 13 goals and scoring just one, the Hornets will be thankful that their upcoming encounter takes place closer to home.

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Team news

Javi Gracia has confirmed that he will finally be able to call upon Venezuelan prodigy Adalberto Peñaranda, yet to make an appearance for the club, who secured both a work permit and a five-year deal with the club during the week.

A previously hefty injury list is gradually declining for the Hornets as long-term absentees Tom Cleverley and Daryl Janmaat are expected to return to action in the coming weeks, while Sebastian Prödl and Will Hughes have both shaken off recent issues.

Étienne Capoue will be available for selection again having served his one-game suspension by missing out on the visit to Southampton.

Liverpool's only absentees of not from recent weeks, Jordan Henderson and Naby Keïta, are back to full fitness and could feature on Saturday, though Klopp will have Wednesday's visit to Paris Saint-Germain in mind.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain continues his lengthy absence with injury having suffered multiple ligament damage in April.

Predicted XIs

Watford - Foster; Femenía, Mariappa, Cathcart, Holebas; Doucouré, Capoue; Deulofeu, Pereyra; Deeney, Success.

Liverpool - Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Fabinho, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Mané.