Watford: Gomes, Nyom, Britos, Cathcart, Aké, Jurado, Watson, Capoue, Jurado, Deeney, Ighalo
Liverpool: Mignolet, Clyne, Skrtel, Sakho, Moreno, Henderson, Can, Coutinho, Lallanna, Origi, Ibe
5 days before Christmas and Watford sit 2 places better off than Liverpool, with an extra victory and a better goal difference. Admittedly they have only won one more, and have a better goal difference by one, it nonetheless emphases the impressive start Watford and especially Quique Sanchez Flores has made to the Premier League season.
For a man whose name is so emphatically Spanish like Sanchez Flores, there is a rather perverse sense of irony in how he has adapted to life in the Premier League by adopting the great bastion of English footballing formations – the 4-4-2. Forever ridiculed at international level, Watford have made 4-4-2 work for them this season and that is undoubtedly due to the work ethic offered up by Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo. So far this year no player in the top 4 divisions in England has scored more goals this calendar year than Odion Ighalo, and the physically imposing centre forward could have a whole host more to his name. Against Norwich a fortnight ago he was more than a handful, the term ‘man on a mission’ doesn’t quite cut the mustard for the shift the Nigerian put in up top. Another key element however to Watford’s success is that Sanchez Flores has made them mighty hard to break down, and once any team does get through to goal the once maligned Heurelho Gomes is proving himself as more than capable at Premier League level.
If only Liverpool could have such luxuries. Weak in set pieces, with a regular goal scorer hard to come by, is the Klopp magic starting to wear off? I don’t think so. For all of the cynicism of Klopp’s Germanic salute to the Kop last weekend, I thought his reasoning was more than sound. Yes a draw with West Brom isn’t going to go down like that night in Istanbul but that wasn’t Klopp’s message. This was a message more for the fans than the players. As the likes of Moreno, Benteke and Firmino trudged up to the Kop disappointed with how the game panned out, the Kop was bouncing. A last minute equaliser, 8 minutes into injury time. This was Klopp trying to build a rapport, a foundation for supporters and squad to move forward. On the pitch however consistency up top is what Klopp will find hard to achieve as Daniel Sturridge continues to be a part time footballer and Benteke, whilst a physical presence, may not represent the ideal Klopp centre forward.
Expect a battle of the strikers. If Klopp chooses to field the flair of Lallana, Coutinho and Firmino/Origi as he did against City, this game could prove a very exciting contest as Liverpool looked rampant in that game. Watford however will be dangerous going forward with Capoue breaking up play and thread the ball through to either Ighalo or Deeney , the Liverpool centre backs will have a long afternoon. I will have to go with two predictions for this one depending on how Klopp sets up Liverpool.
If Benteke starts – Watford 2-1 Liverpool
If Klopp goes for a Lallanna/Coutinho/Firmino or Origi – Watford 1-3 Liverpool