Aug 12, 2017 at 12.30pm UK at ​Vicarage Road
Attendance: 20,407
Okaka (8'), Doucoure (32'), Britos (90')
FT(HT: 2-1)
Mane (29'), Firmino (55' pen.), Salah (58')
Mane (37'), Alexander-Arnold (61'), Mignolet (88')

Preview: Watford vs. Liverpool

Sports Mole previews Saturday lunchtime's Premier League meeting between Watford and Liverpool at Vicarage Road.

Liverpool begin their 2017-18 campaign with a trip to take on Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday lunchtime, aiming to continue their impressive opening-day form.

The Reds have won each of their last four curtain-raising fixtures to a Premier League campaign, having previously gone four without victory, while their opponents are seeking maximum points on matchday one for the first time in five attempts.


Hull City manager Marco Silva during the Premier League match against Southampton on April 29, 2017© SilverHub

For a side that has averaged more than 20 signings a season over the past five years, it has come as no great surprise to see another turnover in playing personnel - as well as management - at Vicarage Road this summer.

Out went Walter Mazzarri, taking with him his bland style of play which ultimately failed to make any sort of impact - the Hornets conceded 18 goals more last season than 2015-16 - and in his place is a man who worked wonders at Hull City last term.

Marco Silva arrived as a relative unknown on these shores, even if he did boast a Greek title and Portuguese Cup to his name, but he is certainly well known now after almost pulling off what at one point looked to be the impossible mission at Hull, before they eventually went down.

Many had completely written the Tigers off by the time Silva was ushered in at the turn of the year, even more so when waving goodbye to Robert Snodgrass and Jake Livermore, though at one stage Hull were backed by the bookies to stay up at Swansea City's expense following a turnaround in fortunes.

Landing the former Sporting Lisbon and Olympiacos boss was a coup in itself for Watford, with rivals Crystal Palace and Southampton also reportedly interested, but with a new manager - their eighth in five years - comes another change of system.

No real surprise to see many back the Hornets to go down come the end of the campaign, then, even if they have recruited well by bringing in some English talent, most recently snapping up Andre Gray from Burnley for a rumoured £18.5m.

For all of Mazzarri's critics, though, the Italian guided his side into the top half of the table come April and reached the magical 40-point mark with six games still to play, even if the style of play was too much to take for some supporters.

The problems really hit home from that point on as the Hertfordshire club lost each of those remaining games, conceding 16 in the process and scoring just three, with all three of those goals coming in a topsy-turvy clash with Chelsea late in the campaign.

It is now down to Silva to integrate his new players into the starting lineup and potentially work his magic once more which, as much as Watford fans will not like to hear it, will only enhance the Portuguese's own profile on his likely rise to the very top of the game.

Recent form: DLWWDD


A hooded Jurgen Klopp looking shifty during the Premier League game between West Bromwich Albion and Liverpool on April 16, 2017© SilverHub

For all the excitement of Champions League football returning to Anfield this term, Liverpool supporters - and not least boss Jurgen Klopp - know that the extra strain of European commitments could have a massive impact on the club's league form.

That proved to be the case the last time the Reds qualified for the showpiece competition, taking just seven points from the six matches immediately after European fixtures, with those fears only enhanced by Klopp's favoured gegenpressing style of play.

After taking 39 points from 48 on offer in the final four months of 2016, the Merseyside outfit were on course to end their top-flight hoodoo in 2016-17 as they were hot on Chelsea's heels at the top come the start of the New Year.

What followed is now a well-known tale, winning just one of their seven league matches in January and February while also crashing out of both domestic cup competitions in quick succession.

All of a sudden, Klopp could only hope for a top-four finish at best and, having achieved exactly that, the German's first full campaign at Anfield must surely go down as a success on the whole.

Klopp has attempted to rectify the increased demands by bringing in some added squad depth - Andrew Robertson, Mohamed Salah and Dominic Solanke all joining, with the latter two quickly settling into the attacking ranks during pre-season.

Yet far more is still required, as pointed out by former Liverpool ace Graeme Souness earlier this week, with Liverpool desperately trying to bring in Virgil van Dijk and Naby Keita from Southampton and RB Leipzig respectively during the off-season.

The most pressing concern for the Merseyside outfit on the eve of the new campaign is not incoming activity, though, but rather outgoing as Philippe Coutinho is still on the radar of Barcelona - usually bad news for Premier League clubs.

Even a place in the Champions League is not assured just yet, meanwhile, as the Reds must first overcome Hoffenheim - a club Klopp knows well from his time in Germany - over two legs. If they come through that unscathed, the campaign ahead really could go one of two ways - just do not expect it to be boring.

Recent form: WWWWLW

Team News

Philippe Coutinho in action during the Premier League game between Liverpool and Burnley on March 12, 2017© SilverHub

Watford skipper Troy Deeney is doubtful due to a groin strain that has plagued his pre-season, but club-record signing Gray appears ready to come straight into the fold in a like-for-like replacement.

The Hornets may welcome back Roberto Pereyra after a lengthy spell on the sidelines, while Richarlison and Will Hughes are two more of the summer arrivals likely to play some part in the Saturday lunchtime kickoff.

Liverpool have suffered an injury blow heading into the new season with the news that Adam Lallana, so impressive at times last time out, is facing around three months on the sidelines with a thigh injury.

It is a familiar tale for Klopp, in fact, as Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson are also carrying knocks and are touch-and-go at this point.

Coutinho will not feature due to a back strain, as speculation over his future continues to mount, and there is also no Nathaniel Clyne at the back so Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold will battle it out for a starting spot.

Watford possible starting lineup:
Gomes; Janmaat, Prodl, Britos, Holebas; Hughes, Chalobah; Amrabat, Capoue, Cleverley; Gray

Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Mignolet; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Matip, Moreno; Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Mane, Firmino, Salah

Head To Head

Watford and Liverpool have faced off on eight occasions in the Premier League, with the Reds coming out on top six times and losing the other two.

The Hornets have lost each of the most recent three encounters, including a 1-0 loss here in May when Emre Can scored a goal of the season contender to earn the points.

Watford's last victory came in December 2015 when running out 3-0 winners at Vicarage Road, a result that took them within touching distance of the top four, but they lost four of their last five home games in this fixture.

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We say: Watford 0-2 Liverpool

Overcoming the division's so-called lesser sides proved far more of a problem for Liverpool last season than winning the games against those around them, so this is a nice fixture to show that they are now made of sterner stuff. The Reds also shipped the opening goal far too often last term, doing so in 11 of their 38 matches, but the Hornets tend to struggle on the opening day and their wait for a win on matchday one could well be prolonged by another year.

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Reds boss Jurgen Klopp appears ahead of the Premier League game between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur on February 11, 2017
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