Last updated & checked: 10/08/2021
This weekend of Premier League action gets underway with a literal “top vs bottom” clash. Liverpool, eight points clear at the summit of English football, welcome a Watford side that demonstrates the difference a year makes. This weekend in 2019, even after a poor run of form, Watford were a top-half side using largely the same personnel who will take the field here at Anfield. This season, they’re a shadow of that team.
Just to drive home the “how the other half live” narrative, Liverpool come into this game having sealed first place in their Champions League group and boosting their status as favourites to retain the trophy they won at the beginning of June in Madrid. Chances are that they’ll rest a star or two here – this month isn’t going to get any less hectic for either side, but the Reds have a deeper squad to choose from than their opponents.
Liverpool vs Watford Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 Watford
There’s a strange vibe about this Liverpool side, a team which on occasion seems to rejoice in doing “just enough” to win. They are, without a doubt, a group of stupendous talent, but have a habit of getting ahead in games and then seemingly sitting off rather than going for the kill. It’s almost hurt them on occasion this season – they needed a late penalty to see off Leicester at Anfield. Here, it may just allow the Reds to skate through an unchallenging game, without major alarms that a team that’s scored nine goals in 16 games so far is likely to breach the red wall.
Our recommended tip: <2.5 goals
This being a Saturday afternoon game in the ever-colder temperatures of December, it would make sense for Liverpool to leave one or two of their stars on the bench, not least given the ankle injury that will rule midfield dynamo Fabinho out until at least the New Year. We could see a disjointed performance from the Reds as a result, with Watford likely to set out to frustrate their hosts as they did at Leicester just a week ago. That still ended in defeat for the Hornets, but it could spare them a thrashing, and you can get odds of 21/10 at 888 for this game to have fewer than 2.5 goals.
The last time these sides met, last February, Liverpool came into the game on the back of indifferent Premier League form and leading rivals Manchester City by a single point. The potential “banana skin” nature of the fixture seemed to act as a galvaniser on Jurgen Klopp’s men as they scored twice in the opening 20 minutes, Sadio Mane grabbing both. A second-half goal from Divock Origi made the points safe, before a pair of late headers from Virgil van Dijk added a gloss to the scoreline and underlined the Reds’ title credentials.
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Players to watch: Naby Keita & Troy Deeney
When the extent of Fabinho’s injury was revealed, there was a sense that Liverpool – then eight points clear in the title race – would find their position coming under renewed pressure. That it has actually improved is due to Klopp’s management of resources, which was madeclearer by Keita’s stunning performance in midweek at RB Salzburg. Creating one goal and scoring another, the Mali international showed in 87 minutes why he could become a club legend – and he’ll seek to keep those games coming.
Since Hayden Mullins took caretaker control at Watford, the team has not exactly pulled up trees – one point from a possible six – but they made life uncomfortable for Leicester before holding Crystal Palace to a draw. One of Mullins’ immediate changes was to bring Deeney back into the fold, and his combative approach to playing centre-forward will make for some interesting battles here. We know that van Dijk and Dejan Lovren can deal with pace and cunning in an attack; how will they deal with some rough-and-tumble?