Liverpool face the curse of the new manager bounce on Saturday afternoon when they take on Claudio Ranieri’s Watford in the Italian’s first game in charge.
The Reds have made an excellent start to the season and went into the international break off the back of a breathless draw with champions Manchester City. After that impressive point, Jurgen Klopp will see their trip to Vicarage Road as a chance to get back on the winning road.
Standing in their way are Ranieri’s Watford, who are fresh off the back of sacking Xisco Munoz. The newly promoted side sit 15th in the Premier League table, but that wasn’t enough to save the Spaniard from becoming the first managerial casualty of the year.
Ranieri will want to get his tenure off to a flying start, but he’ll know there are few more difficult tasks than kicking off against Liverpool. Will the favourites make it business as usual, or can the underdogs spring an upset?
Here’s 90min’s preview of Saturday’s early clash.
When is kick off? Saturday 16 October, 12:30 (BST)
Where is the game being played? Vicarage Road
TV Channel/Live Stream? BT Sport (UK) fuboTV (US)
Highlights? BT Sport YouTube Channel (UK), BBC Match of the Day (UK)
Referee? Jon Moss
Ranieri begins his time at Watford with several injury issues to resolve. A centre-back crisis forced the Hornets into making the late free signing of Nicolas Nkoulou, and he could make his debut against the Reds.
Joshua King is still out through injury, while Francisco Sierralta and Peter Etebo are also sidelined. Youngster Cucho Hernandez could lead the line with Emmanuel Dennis and Ismaila Sarr manning the flanks.
Liverpool have worries of their own, and could be without Alisson Becker and Fabinho due to their commitments with Brazil.
Caoimhin Kelleher is in line to deputise between the sticks in Alisson’s absence, while the Reds also face further headaches in attack. Diogo Jota left Portugal’s camp through injury and Thiago Alcantara is suffering from his own fitness issues, all-but ruling the pair out.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is available in positive news, but Klopp may choose to stick with James Milner at right-back and save the England star for midweek Champions League duties.
Watford: Foster, Ngakia, Troost-Ekong, Nkoulou, Masina; Sissoko, Cleverley, Kucka; Sarr, Hernandez, Dennis
Liverpool: Kelleher; Milner, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Keita; Salah, Firmino, Mane
Liverpool have generally enjoyed the better of this fixture down the years, but that didn’t stop one of the shocks of the season occurring when the two sides met in February 2020.
The Reds were on their way to becoming champions of England for the first time in 30 years, and were licking their lips at the prospect of an invincible season.
But the soon-to-be relegated Hornets put in their best display of the campaign, hammering Liverpool 3-0 thanks to an inspired display from Sarr. Prior to that meeting, Klopp’s men had won the previous four encounters by an aggregate score of 15-0.
Liverpool do have to face the troublesome new manager bounce, but even with the possibility of losing their key South American stars, they should have enough to get past a struggling Watford side.
Klopp will fancy his players to breeze beyond the narrative and stick to their task gamely, and with Mohamed Salah in such stellar form, it’s hard to argue against an away win.
Prediction: Watford 1-2 Liverpool