Liverpool welcome Watford to Anfield on Sunday afternoon, with the Reds looking to avenge the miserable 3-0 reverse earlier in the season.
Liverpool vs. Watford
Sunday 8th May 2016, 16:00 (BST)
Referee: Lee Mason
Liverpool will be buoyant after they cruised into the Europa League Final on Thursday evening.
Jurgen Klopp‘s men were magnificent from start to finish in the 3-0 win over Villarreal, with the visitors barely knowing what had hit them.
It was yet another high point in an increasingly enjoyable season for the Reds, who face Sevilla in the final on 18th May.
Attention now turns back to Premier League action, however, with Anfield hosting its second-last game of 2015/16, against Watford on Sunday.
There were a few concerns that Liverpool were suffering a slight wobble, following three matches without victory, but the Villarreal win has eased those fears completely.
Dropped league points against Newcastle and Swansea City were largely due to Klopp fielding weakened teams, in fairness, and their first-leg defeat to Villarreal was unlucky.
The Reds have only lost twice in their last 10 matches in all competitions, and they haven’t been defeated at Anfield since Stoke City won 1-0 in the League Cup semi-final second-leg back in January.
Even then, Liverpool still progressed on penalties on the night. Man United were the last side to win there in the league.
Watford‘s season has petered out after a very impressive start – there was even genuine talk of a top-four finish at one point.
Legs have tired as the campaign has progressed, and the strike partnership of Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo has faded a little.
The Hornets have lost four times in their seven games, and last Saturday’s 3-2 win at home to relegated Aston Villa was only achieved thanks to two stoppage time goals from Deeney.
Quique Sanchez Flores’ side enjoyed a good FA Cup run, which included knocking out current holders Arsenal, but Crystal Palace beat them 2-1 in the semi-finals at Wembley last month.
Form Guide (Last 10 games)
Liverpool have bad memories of their last meeting with Watford, in December, when the Reds produced one of their most dismal performances of the season.
Adam Bogdan’s early howler allowed Nathan Ake to poke home from close-range, and from then on, Klopp’s men could not get going. An Ighalo double sealed a richly-deserved 3-0 win for Watford, who were flying at that point.
Prior to that, the last clash between the two sides came back in January 2007, when two goals from Peter Crouch and another from Craig Bellamy saw Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool team ease to victory at Vicarage Road.
The last Anfield meeting between the pair came earlier in that 2006/07 season, when Bellamy and Xabi Alonso inspired the Reds to a routine 2-0 win.
Watford have not won at Anfield since August 1999, when a Tommy Mooney goal earned the newly-promoted visitors a famous 1-0 triumph.
A huge positive to come out of the memorable win over Villarreal was the return of Emre Can. The German has now recovered from an ankle injury that kept him out for three months, although he is likely to be rested on Sunday after playing 90 minutes on Thursday.
Klopp’s injury troubles continue to ease, with Jordan Henderson and Divock Origi the only key players currently missing.
Joe Gomez and Danny Ings are both closing in on returns following serious cruciate ligament injuries, but aren’t ready to feature yet. Mamadou Sakho remains suspended, while Brad Smith is also out after his red card at Swansea last week.
It is likely to be a second-string team that Klopp selects this weekend, which means the likes of Connor Randall, Kevin Stewart, Pedro Chirivella, Jordon Ibe and Sheyi Ojo could all be given a chance to shine.
Flores has almost a fully fit squad to choose from ahead of the trip to Merseyside, with just two players on the sidelines. Valon Behrami is missing with a rib problem that is likely to keep him out for the rest of the season, while Etienne Capoue is out with knee trouble.
What the Managers Say
Klopp spoke about the bond within the squad currently:
Hopefully it is like this because we are together so often. It is because of the boys. That makes it easy.
We have a good relationship and that is very important when you have so many hours together every day. You want to feel close to your players.
There are a lot of roads that lead to Rome. The most successful managers in the world may have different relations with the players – but I can’t change my character. Maybe I should in some parts, but not this.
Flores admits he is wary of the threat an in-form Liverpool pose:
I know how it is to play at Anfield. I went there with Atletico Madrid five or six years ago in the semi-final of the Europa League. I know all about the atmosphere and the support from the stands, they push the team a lot.
Now they’re in a good run and Liverpool have changed a lot. I remember my conversation with Jurgen Klopp after the match at Vicarage Road and he was a little bit worried about their results.
You know need to know the league, the players and the squad and he’d only been in the Premier League a short while, but I remember the conversation and I said he didn’t need to worry. He’s a good manager and for sure his team were going to improve.
I love this coach, first because I love how he manages the squad and the players, and I love his idea of football. Just like when he was at Dortmund, they play quick, they play with quality players who are skilful, quick and clever, and these are the players he likes and he chooses for Liverpool.
Odds & TV Info
This is a very difficult match to call, because of the likely changes that Klopp will make, but the bookies still make Liverpool firm favourites to pick up all three points.
The Reds are 1/2 for the win, which doesn’t actually seem a great bet. Watford are 11/2 to register a first win at Anfield in 17 years, while the draw is 7/2.
Both teams to score at 18/25 looks likely, considering these end-of-season matches can often have goals in them, with not too much at stake for either side.
Christian Benteke will surely start up front, with Sturridge rested after two games in succession, and the Belgian looks a decent bet to score first at 15/4.
Ibe and Ojo are 8/1 and 15/2, respectively, to open the scoring, with the two youngsters desperate to prove their worth to Klopp.
Ighalo is a real threat in front of goal, and he is 7/1 to put the visitors ahead, while his partner-in-crime Deeney is 8/1.
The match is not live on UK television, with the match only moved from a Saturday 3pm kick off due to Liverpool’s Europa League commitments.