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Preview: Watford vs. Liverpool - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Premier League clash between Watford and unbeaten Liverpool at Vicarage Road, including team news, predicted XIs and head-to-head record.

Liverpool will be looking to extend their unbeaten start to the Premier League season to 13 matches when they take on Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday.

The Reds have made their joint-best ever start to a Premier League campaign, but they come up against a Watford team that has also impressed so far in 2018-19.


Javi Gracia in charge of Watford on November 3, 2018© Reuters

It is testament to the work Javi Gracia has done at Vicarage Road that he is on the verge of becoming the first Watford boss to sign a contract extension since Malky Mackay in 2011.

The notoriously cut-throat owners have been suitably impressed by the Spaniard since his January appointment, and fresh terms are expected to be signed next week.

Before that, though, Gracia faces the challenge of picking up his 30th win from his 47th match in charge against a team yet to be beaten by anyone in the Premier League this season.

Watford will not be daunted by that prospect, having already ended Tottenham Hotspur's 100% start this season, although since that victory at the beginning of September the Hornets have only won two of their nine matches across all competitions.

Things have certainly taken a turn for the worse since they kept pace with Liverpool at the start of the campaign with four wins from their opening four games, and they welcome the Reds having only taken one point from back-to-back matches against struggling duo Newcastle United and Southampton before the international break.

Despite that dip in form, Watford remain seventh in the Premier League table, above the likes of Manchester United, Everton and Leicester City and only four points off the top five with almost a third of the season gone.

There are causes for caution, though; Watford were only one place and two points worse off at the same stage of last season, and it was around this point of the 2017-18 campaign when their form began to tail off - a run of just one win in 12 Premier League games ultimately spelling an end to Marco Silva's reign and opening the door for Gracia.

The board clearly do not feel that a similar slump is forthcoming given their willingness to extend the Spaniard's stay, and the Hornets go into Saturday's match with five wins from their last seven Premier League home games - although it was only last month that they were beaten 4-0 by Bournemouth in front of their own fans.

Liverpool and Manchester City are the next two visitors to Vicarage Road - the most stringent tests the league has to offer at the moment - and Watford have lost 15 of their 17 Premier League games against teams that have begun the day in the top two.

There is the sense that this Watford side is capable of pulling off upsets, though, and doing so on Saturday would be the perfect preface to Gracia's imminent new deal.

Recent Premier League form: LLWWLD


Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp watches on during his side's Champions League clash with Red Star Belgrade on November 6, 2018© Reuters

Liverpool fans could be forgiven for having one eye on the week to come instead of the visit to Vicarage Road, but Jurgen Klopp will know that his side need full focus for Saturday's match.

A crucial Champions League visit to Paris Saint-Germain awaits the Reds on Wednesday before they welcome neighbours Everton to Anfield in the Merseyside derby to kick off their busy December.

Victory over Watford may not spawn as many headlines, but it could be equally important as Liverpool look to keep pace with Manchester City, who take on West Ham United away at the same time as Liverpool are in action.

Two points currently separate the Reds from the champions despite Klopp's side making their joint-best ever start to a Premier League campaign, with Chelsea two points further behind again to complete the unbeaten trio.

Liverpool have not gone 13 games without defeat at the start of a top-flight campaign since 2007-08, but on that occasion they drew six of those matches whereas Klopp's side have only dropped six points in total so far this term - all against teams currently in the top five.

The 100% record against teams outside that top five perhaps signals an end to Liverpool's struggles against weaker sides - something which had undermined previous seasons with Klopp at the helm - while they also appear to have solved another of their main Achilles' heels.

The Reds boast the joint-best defensive record in the division having let in just five goals in their opening 12 matches, and you have to go back to April - a 2-2 draw away to West Bromwich Albion - for the last time they conceded more than once in a game.

It is in attack where they are lagging behind City - as well as Chelsea and Arsenal, for that matter - but Sadio Mane's new long-term contract means that Liverpool have now tied all of their front three down for what should be the prime of their careers.

Suitors will surely come knocking for them if Liverpool's trophy drought drags on, though, and with Manchester City in such relentless form any slip-up from the Reds could be ruthlessly exposed by Pep Guardiola's side - as it was last season when City finished a record 19 points clear of the chasing pack.

Every game is of vital importance at this stage of the season, then, so Klopp must ensure that his side are as focused on Saturday's trip to Hertfordshire as they are for Wednesday's visit to Paris.

Recent Premier League form: DDWWDW
Recent form (all competitions): WWWDLW

Team News

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson in action during the Premier League clash with Brighton & Hove Albion on August 25, 2018© Reuters

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has been passed fit to start, despite aggravating a hamstring injury on international duty with England.

Klopp has been cautious with Henderson's recovery at other stages this season, but insisted that the midfielder is ready to play on Saturday.

Naby Keita is also among those back available despite Klopp hinting that he was tired upon his return from international duty, but Adam Lallana has been ruled out to join long-term absentee Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the sidelines.

Xherdan Shaqiri could be a victim of a switch back to the 4-3-3 system, while there are decisions to be made regarding who plays in that midfield trio and who partners Virgil van Dijk at centre-back.

Watford, meanwhile, are able to hand a debut to Adalberto Penaranda, who was finally granted a UK work permit this week having initially signed for the club in 2016.

The 21-year-old is unlikely to be included until he is up to match fitness, though, while Gracia is also waiting news on the fitness of Will Hughes, who picked up a knock against Southampton last time out.

Daryl Janmaat and Tom Cleverley are closing in on returns but this match could come too soon for them, while Sebastian Prodl has recovered from a leg injury and Etienne Capoue is back available after suspension.

Watford possible starting lineup:
Foster; Femenia, Prodl, Cathcart, Holebas; Hughes, Doucoure, Capoue, Pereyra; Deulofeu, Success

Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Milner; Salah, Firmino, Mane

Head To Head

Liverpool have won four and lost none of their last five Premier League meetings with Watford, scoring 17 goals in that time since a 3-0 defeat in December 2015.

In all competitions it is nine wins from the last 11 clashes for Liverpool, keeping six clean sheets in those wins - including a 5-0 drubbing at Anfield in March when Mohamed Salah scored four.

There has never been a goalless draw between these two sides in the top flight, and the most recent meeting at Vicarage Road was a 3-3 thriller on the opening day of last season.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Watford 0-1 Liverpool

Liverpool have not been blowing teams away this season, rather getting the job done in a less exuberant fashion. The visitors are catching Watford on a seemingly downward turn at the moment, and we're backing them to come away with the victory.

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Who will win Saturday's Premier League clash between Watford and Liverpool?

Naby Keita in action for Liverpool in a friendly on July 19, 2018
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