The Big Match Tactical View: Watford v Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool need a victory after two disappointing results
Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool need a victory after two disappointing results
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Sunday's first Premier League game is a meeting between two intriguing continental coaches in their first season in England - Quique Sanchez Flores and Jurgen Klopp. Michael Cox looks at their tactical decisions, while Alan Thompson has the betting lowdown...

"These sides are both very well-organised without the ball, but they’re only sporadically impressive going forward."

Watford v Liverpool
Sunday 13:30,
Live on Sky Sports 1

Match Odds: Watford 4.216/5, Liverpool 2.021/1, The Draw 3.613/5.

Liverpool will make the long journey down to Watford on Sunday afternoon finding themselves below their opposition in the Premier League table - and in need of a victory after a defeat to Newcastle followed by a frustrating draw against West Brom.

There was briefly talk of a title charge under Jurgen Klopp, but Liverpool now find themselves mathematically closer to the relegation zone than the top of the league.

Klopp will be forced to make a change in defence as Dejan Lovren is injured, with Mamadou Sakho set to partner Martin Skrtel. There's a chance he could bring Lucas Leiva back into the holding role, although Emre Can performed well there last weekend against West Bromwich Albion and should retain his place.

Forward poser for Klopp

Klopp's major decision, however, is precisely what to do upfront. Christian Benteke hasn't looked entirely comfortable under Klopp so far, aside from a fine cameo appearance from the bench in a 3-1 victory at Stamford Bridge, and has looked particularly poor when starting in away games, in matches where Liverpool really require pace in behind the opposition.

Klopp has to judge precisely what Liverpool need from their centre-forward in this game. Using Roberto Firmino upfront worked brilliantly in the 4-1 win at Manchester City, but here Watford are likely to sit much deeper and therefore Benteke's aerial power might prove more useful. Firmino might be a substitute again, with Adam Lallana and Coutinho floating behind Benteke.

Hosts offer counter-attacking threat

Whereas Liverpool will attempt to press high and regain possession, Quique Sanchez Flores' side are likely to sit back, soak up pressure before attempting to break quickly through the wide players, Almen Abdi and Ikechi Anya.

The positioning of Liverpool's full-backs will be interesting - although they'll be expected to provide width, there's a danger the distance between them and the centre-backs will be too large, giving Watford space to counter-attack into.

The most interesting thing about Watford, though, is the positioning of the two centre-forwards. Both Troy Deeney and in-form Odion Ighalo generally drop back into a deep position effectively as fifth and sixth midfielders, which will make it difficult for Liverpool to play through a very compact Watford side.

Other managers have asked their players to rely on width to get around this problem, although Klopp will probably preach the importance of counter-pressing even more than usual - if Liverpool win the ball quickly, high up the pitch, they won't suffer so much in this respect.

Midfield barrier

The deep-lying midfield duo of Ben Watson and Etienne Capoue are also problematic for opponents because of their deep, solid positioning. Shifting these two out of position is difficult, but Liverpool must take any opportunity they can to break past them quickly - when Watford's centre-backs are exposed, they don't look like Premier League quality defenders. Jordan Henderson's goal against West Brom last weekend, where he burst into the box suddenly to collect a knock-down, might serve as an example of Liverpool's approach this weekend.

These sides are both very well-organised without the ball - albeit in very different ways - but they're only sporadically impressive going forward. Ighalo and Benteke both need service, and if their teammates struggle to play around teammates, this could be a game of few goalscoring chances.

The Betfair Trader's View: Alan Thompson

This is certainly turning out to be a pretty crazy season. Never mind Chelsea with 15 points after 16 games and Leicester City being top of the league approaching Christmas but, if Watford can beat Liverpool, they could move into fifth place.

And while the Hornets are heading into a very difficult run of games - facing Chelsea, Spurs and Man City during the festive period - they have won their last three and have nothing to fear from these games. With momentum on their side they will be difficult to beat.

Quique Flores has a healthy squad and are potentially unchanged from their win over Sunderland.

Liverpool have stumbled in their last two starts, beaten at Newcastle and then only drawing at home against West Brom with a last gasp equaliser.

The Vicarage Road faithful have only seen an average of 1.5 goals per game this season, the second lowest in the league (behind Old Trafford with 1.43) and with five clean sheets at home only Manchester United have kept more (six). With five of Liverpool’s eight away games going under 2.5 goals this could be another tight affair.

It’s a difficult one to call this as, when the Hornets have faced decent opposition this season they have lost, home to Arsenal (0-3), Man Utd (1-2) and Palace (0-1) as well as defeats on the road at the King Power (1-2) and the Etihad (0-2).

But the main question ahead of Sunday's game is 'how good are Liverpool?' After witnessing their last two starts, the jury is still out. I will be laying the Reds at 2.0621/20.

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