Liverpool vs Watford Preview: Top against bottom at Anfield
(Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

Premier League leaders Liverpool will look to sign-off before their trip to Qatar with victory at home to bottom-of-the-table Watford on Saturday lunchtime.

The Reds will begin their Club World Cup campaign next Wednesday, leaving behind a group of youngsters to face Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup.

They will look to extend their lead over second-placed Leicester City to 11 points, for a few hours at least, with a vital trip to the King Power looming on Boxing Day.

After a series of narrow victories, Liverpool have enjoyed some more comfortable triumphs of late, hammering Everton 5-2 before easing to a 3-0 victory against Bournemouth last weekend.

They sealed progression to the last 16 of the Champions League in midweek by beating RB Salzburg 2-0.

This is only Nigel Pearson's second game in charge, the first ending in a goalless draw against Crystal Palace, but it will not be seen as a likely source of much-needed points.

Watford have won only one of their 16 matches this season and find themselves six points from safety.

The Hornets have lost 5-0 on their last two visits to Anfield and have beaten Liverpool only once in 13 meetings since the turn of the century (at Vicarage Road in December 2015).

Team news

Dejan Lovren is a major doubt for Liverpool after being forced off with injury twice in two games, meaning Joe Gomez is poised to start alongside Virgil van Dijk.

Joel Matip and Fabinho are out for the remainder of the year with their respective knee and ankle injuries, while Adam Lallana is looking to brush off a knock.

Pearson has plenty of injury concerns in the Watford camp.

In defence, Daryl Janmaat, Sebastian Prodl (both knee) and Jose Holebas (ankle) are all missing. 

Tom Cleverley (heel) and Danny Welbeck (hamstring) will also be sidelined, while Roberto Pereyra is a doubt.

Predicted line-ups

Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Keita; Salah, Firmino, Mane.

Watford (5-4-1): Foster; Femenia, Dawson, Kabasele, Cathcart, Masina; Sarr, Doucoure, Capoue, Deulofeu; Deeney.

Key clashes

Troy Deeney vs Joe Gomez

Watford captain Deeney has in the past described Virgil van Dijk as a nightmare opponent for strikers to face, so naturally he will gravitate towards Joe Gomez on Saturday.

Gomez was excellent prior to a serious injury last season but has looked a little off-the-pace on his outings this term.

It promises to be a real scrap between the two, with Deeney sure to be fired-up as he looks to lead his side out of the present quagmire.

He'll be looking to finish off any counterattacks generated by the pace of Gerard Deulofeu and Ismaila Sarr out wide.

Mohamed Salah vs... Watford

No team has taken Premier League points off Liverpool at Anfield since January. Even if you can breach their defence, you must contain a fearsome array of attacking threats.

Mohamed Salah has tormented Watford since his arrival in England, most notably when he fired in four goals in an Anfield rout in March 2018. He has also scored twice at Vicarage Road.

Only two Premier League teams - Spurs and Bournemouth (both seven) - have shipped more goals to the Egyptian.

Salah, raising his game with Sadio Mane grabbing the headlines, starred against the Cherries last weekend and was on target again in Europe. Watford need to find a way to stop him rounding off the week in style. 

The managers

Jurgen Klopp predominantly fielded questions about his newly-announced contract extension in his press conference, but did offer this rather blunt assessment ahead of Saturday's game:

"Watford have a new manager, so we might as well throw our analysis in the bin!" he said.

Nigel Pearson, meanwhile, was looking at the bigger picture:

“We can stay up, for sure we can stay up, but we’re going to have to have a collective buy-in from everybody associated with us," he stressed.

“The players certainly as a group, the staff around the football club. I’ve been introduced to a lot of the staff who work at the stadium today.

“This strikes me as a club with an identity that maybe we need to redefine on the pitch. But I’m confident we can do that, for sure.”