Match Preview: Watford vs Liverpool

Matthew Stinton previews Liverpool’s upcoming trip to Watford that will signal their return to Premier League football after a long summer. 

It’s only a few days now until Liverpool play their first game of the Premier League season; a trip to Watford.

There is still a lot of uncertainty regarding our transfer business which is leaving fans increasingly frustrated, but this is a match we should be looking to win anyway if we want to achieve anything this season.

Recent encounters

Our game against Watford at Anfield last season ended with a 6-1 thrashing, our biggest win of the season; Sadio Mané scored a brace and Gini Wijnaldum scored his first goal of the season in the 90th minute following some nice work from Daniel Sturridge. This result left us at the top of the table in early November but we didn’t return to that position for the rest of the season.

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The away fixture was much more difficult. We were struggling and truthfully playing some of our worst football of the season, but Emre Can gave us a 1-0 lead just before half time with what turned out to be the Premier League goal of the season. We got through a frantic last few minutes and secured what was a vital three points in our race for the top four.

Fitness update

After the Audi Cup final against Atletico Madrid, Adam Lallana suffered a thigh injury which should keep him out of action for 2-3 months. This is of course a huge blow to the squad but with Philippe Coutinho’s transition into a central midfield player, I’m not sure he would have started the opening game anyway; I think Wijnaldum would have started instead as a pairing of Lallana and Coutinho would have been too attacking minded.

At the back, Nathaniel Clyne is still suffering with a minor injury that will keep him out of this game, which means Trent Alexander-Arnold will almost certainly start. This really isn’t ideal for Clyne as he has some real competition at right back for the first time in his Liverpool career. Depending on how well Trent performs, he could struggle to regain his place in the starting eleven.

Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho missed our final preseason game, but neither have major injuries and both should be available for selection on Saturday.

Lineup prediction

With all the above injuries considered, here’s how I expect us to line up for our opening game:

Goalkeeper: Simon Mignolet

Right Back: Trent Alexander-Arnold

Centre Back: Joel Matip

Centre Back: Dejan Lovren

Left Back: Andy Robertson

Central Midfield: Jordan Henderson

Central Midfield: Gini Wijnaldum

Central Midfield: Philippe Coutinho

Right Wing: Mohamed Salah

Left Wing: Sadio Mané

Striker: Roberto Firmino

In my last prediction I tipped Virgil Van Dijk to start at centre back for our first game but that is obviously impossible now.

The only real uncertainty though in this prediction is the left back position; Alberto Moreno has performed well in preseason and could be given another chance, but I’d rather see our new signing start.

Perhaps Emre Can could start too, but I doubt we’ll line up without our captain. Whoever starts for us, let’s hope they can give us the start to the season we want and bring three points home.

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