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10 key things to know ahead of Watford vs. Liverpool

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Liverpool take on Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday lunchtime, looking for a return to winning ways in the Premier League.

The Reds are back after the two-week international break, with the tense 2-2 draw with Man City the last time Jurgen Klopp‘s men were in action.

Up next is Saturday’s trip to Vicarage Road – the venue of their shock 3-0 defeat in the title-winning season.

Here are 10 things to know ahead of Saturday’s match.

 

1. Watford have made a solid start

Watford's Ismaila Sarr during the match (Nigel French/EMPICS Sport)

Watford are one of a number of clubs who seem to yoyo between the Premier League and the Championship, and they are now back in the big time – for the time being at least.

The Hornets haven’t set the world alight since their return, sitting 15th in the table, but two wins and a draw from seven matches is a respectable return.

They are already six points clear of bottom-placed Norwich and their performances suggest relegation could be avoided this time around.

Plus, there’s a new manager in town…

 

2. Ranieri takes charge

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 10, 2018: Former Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri applauds the supporters after the FA Premier League match between Leicester City FC and Burnley FC at the King Power Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Xisco became Watford‘s latest managerial casualty earlier this month, losing his job after just 10 months in charge at Vicarage Road.

Replacing him is Claudio Ranieri, who famously inspired Leicester to the most unlikely title win in English football history back in 2015/16.

At 69, the Italian may arguably be past his best as a manager, but he is a likeable individual whose man-management skills have shone through in the past.

Avoiding a new manager ‘bounce’ has to be a primary aim for Liverpool this weekend.

 

3. Liverpool without key trio

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 8, 2021: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Athletic Club de Bilbao at Anfield. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool’s injury problems haven’t eased during the international break and they have also been dealt a blow with regards to Alisson and Fabinho.

The Brazilian duo are out of Saturday’s game because of representing their country against Uruguay in the early hours of Friday morning.

Alisson and Fabinho will instead go straight to Spain ahead of the Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid on Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile, Curtis Jones is missing with an injury frustratingly picked up on England under-21s duty and Thiago is also out.

Harvey Elliott is a long-term absentee.

 

4. How Reds could line up

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 25, 2021: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold during the FA Premier League match between Brentford FC and Liverpool FC at the Brentford Community Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The good news is that Trent Alexander-Arnold and Diogo Jota are both available for selection against Watford.

The former has recovered from the groin problem that kept him out against Porto and Man City, acting as a huge boost for Liverpool.

With Alisson out, Caoimhin Kelleher will come in for his 11th Reds appearance, while Fabinho‘s absence means Jordan Henderson could play as a No. 6, alongside James Milner and Naby Keita.

Roberto Firmino is an option, should Klopp prefer him to Jota – a 4-2-3-1 isn’t out of the question, too – but the Portuguese appears to be first choice these days.

Predicted Liverpool XI: Kelleher; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Milner, Keita; Salah, Firmino, Mane

 

5. Unhappy Klopp

Speaking in Friday’s press conference, Klopp made it clear how perturbed he was with the FA for allowing Jones to play earlier in the week:

“When we talk about federations, Curtis Jones came back injured from the U21s. So, great. That’s not OK as well.

“It’s really difficult to get proper contact even with the English federation, because they just do what they want. He didn’t train, was not involved in the first game, they didn’t do a scan.

“Then he played a few minutes in the second game, very important that he played there (sarcasm). Came back, slight injury, not available for tomorrow.”

Frankly, it is ludicrous that Jones was brought on against international minnows Andorra, and it further highlights why so many football fans have no time for international breaks.

 

6. A big miss

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 18, 2021: Liverpool's Curtis Jones during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Jones will be a loss on Saturday, as while he may be known for his technical expertise, he has impressed in a more refined midfield role.

Incredibly, the 20-year-old has covered more ground per 90 minutes than any other Premier League player this season (11.35km).

Meanwhile, Milner (11.25km) is in second place – remarkable, given his age.

Jones is doing exactly what Klopp asks of him, rather than playing his natural game and earning the plaudits, as was the case during his youth team days.

Here’s hoping he is back as soon as possible.

 

7. Iffy Vicarage Road record

WATFORD, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 29, 2020: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker looks dejected as Watford score the opening goal during the FA Premier League match between Watford FC and Liverpool FC at Vicarage Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Everyone remembers Liverpool’s 3-0 defeat to Watford back in 2019/20, ending their long unbeaten run, but they have struggled at Vicarage Road in general.

The Reds have only won twice there in their last five visits, one of which was an undeserved 1-0 victory in 2016/17, thanks to Emre Can stunning overhead kick.

The other was a 3-0 triumph in 2018/19, with Alexander-Arnold firing home a trademark free-kick, but it has been a tough place to visit.

A 3-0 loss in Klopp’s early months at Anfield led to some concern, while a 3-3 draw on the opening weekend of 2017/18 saw the Reds’ defence all at sea.

 

8. Did you know?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 3, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The general consensus is that Mohamed Salah is the world’s best player on current form – it’s hard to disagree.

Liverpool’s superstar No. 11 has been in unplayable form of late and one statistic sums up how good he has been this season.

Salah has made nine appearances in all competitions in 2020/21, and incredibly, he has only failed to score in one of those matches.

That was the 2-0 win at home Burnley in August when Jota and Sadio Mane netted the goals for the Reds.

 

9. Jon Moss in charge

London, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 23, 2018: Referee Jonathan Moss during the FA Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Everton FC at the Emirates Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Jon Moss takes charge of proceedings at Vicarage Road – it’s fair to say he isn’t the most popular official in the game.

On the plus side, Liverpool won all three matches he took charge of last season, which bodes well.

The first of those was the 7-0 mauling of Crystal Palace before Christmas, before a 3-1 triumph at West Ham and a 2-0 win away to Sheffield United.

No dodgy calls on Saturday please, Jon.

 

10. Reds live on the telly

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 15, 2018: A television camera blocks the view of photographers during the FA Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Saturday’s match is live on BT Sport 1 from 11.30am (BST), with kickoff at 12.30pm.

Our matchday live blog will be running from 11.45am, with Henry Jackson tasked with guiding you through the action.

There will be a combination of interesting pre-match content and nervous minute-by-minute updates to look forward to!

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