Watford v Liverpool
Saturday 12 August, 12:30
Live on Sky Sports Premier League
Hornets buzzing after record-breaking week
A fairly promising, if under-the-radar, start to last season ended disappointingly for Watford, as Walter Mazzarri's men won just three of their final 15 games. The Hornets finished just one place above relegation although they never seemed truly in threat of the drop.
Nevertheless, their fall from grace was startling - dropping from 10th spot after 31 games to 17th on the final day of the Premier League season when the Italian was promptly sacked.
The signing of Marco Silva - one of the most sought after managers in the league after his work with Hull - was a major coup, although optimism at Vicarage Road was perhaps tempered by a slow start to the transfer window.
But Watford's quiet summer exploded this week as the club smashed its record transfer fee twice within the space of a few days. Goalscoring had been one of their major problems last term - particularly with Troy Deeney's injury setbacks - but in the shape of young Brazilian Richarlison and Burnley striker Andre Gray that should be a thing of the past.
Further shrewd signings in the shape of Nathaniel Chalobah and Will Hughes should add steel and a touch of class to midfield while the return of Roberto Pereyra from injury will reintroduce some much needed creativity.
Reds frustrated by fruitless summer window
Liverpool's pre-season has been dominated by what hasn't happened in the transfer market. The long and what look to be ultimately fruitless pursuits of Naby Keita and Virgil van Dijk have underlined a frustrating summer for Jurgen Klopp's men. But the disappointment at their failure to arrive would be nothing compared to the departure of Philippe Coutinho.
The Reds have rejected two bids from Barcelona for their Brazilian forward (at the time of writing) and will be doing everything they can to keep hold of him lest they be accused of taking another step backwards after a season of progress - see Luis Suarez's sale to the Catalans in 2014 as the reference point.
That saga has been far from ideal preparation for the start of the Premier League season. The Reds looked breathtaking at times in pre-season, with new addition Mo Salah adding pace and precision to an attack that is already bursting with both.
Liverpool showed they were among the best sides in the country last season, often beating their title rivals and eventually finishing top of the trophy-less 'big six mini-league'. Where they came unstuck was in games against teams who wanted to sit back and hit them on the counter-attack.
One such side to do just that were Silva's Hull, who beat the Reds 2-0 at the KCOM stadium in February, not long after the Portuguese took charge. To underline Liverpool's inconsistency, they then beat Tottenham 2-0 the following weekend before Spurs went on a 10-match winning run.
Liverpool will no doubt be dangerous once again this season but they look somewhat vulnerable here, with transfer sagas rumbling in the background and a squad that still doesn't look like it is completed.
Silva had a formidable home record at Hull last season, winning eight out of 11, and you would expect him to have his new side playing with a similar verve as his old one.
The Hornets are unbeaten in their last 10 opening day league games, and while they may not pull off a win at odds of [6.4], there is enough evidence to suggest that laying Liverpool at a short [1.61] is a decent bet.
Whenever Liverpool are in town, you are almost guaranteed goals. Games involving the Reds last season witnessed 120 goals - second only to Arsenal (121) in the league. A forward line possessing the likes of Coutinho, Salah and Sadio Mane should regularly find the net. Although their back line improved towards the end of last season, keeping four clean sheets on the bounce to close it out, they still look susceptible to conceding regularly.
Watford's goalscoring woes on the other hand - they had the second worst record outside the relegation zone last season - should be diminished by the arrivals of Grey and Richarlison.
That would all suggest that backing Over 2.5 Goals at [1.82] is a better option than backing Unders at [2.08]. Similarly, Both Teams To Score can also be backed at around the [1.82] mark.
Anthony Taylor will be getting his season under way at Vicarage Road on Saturday. The Manchester-born official took charge of 41 domestic games last season, handing out 161 yellow cards and five reds. He took charge of five Liverpool matches last term - of which they won three and drew two - and two Watford ones - of which they won one and lost one.