29 April 2017

Liverpool at Watford 05.01.17

3pm ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
6-1 Liverpool (h) 11.06.16
2-0 Liverpool (h) 05.08.16
0-3 Watford (a) 12.20.15
3-0 Liverpool (a) 01.13.07

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 1-2 Palace (h); 1-0 West Brom (a); 2-1 Stoke (a)
Watford: 0-2 Hull (a); 1-0 Swansea (h); 0-4 Tottenham (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Mané 13; Firmino 11; Coutinho 10; Lallana, Milner 7; Origi 6; Wijnaldum 5; Can 4; Lovren, Sturridge 2; Henderson, Matip 1
Watford: Deeney 10; Capoue 6; Okaka 3; Holebas, Kabasele, Kaboul, Niang, Pereyra 2; Britos, Doucoure, Ighalo, Prödl, Success, Zuniga 1

Referee: Craig Pawson (LFC History) (WhoScored)

Guess at a line-up:
Clyne Matip Lovren Milner
Lallana Can Wijnaldum
Firmino Origi Coutinho

We know where Liverpool have failed lately. Liverpool know where Liverpool have failed lately. Create more chances. Put more shots on-target. Try not to do anything stupid in defense.

It's easy, football.

Having Lallana back in midfield should help the first two issues. His pressing and ability with the ball should lead to a more threatening central midfield and more and better chances. More and better chances should lead to more shots on-target. At least, it seems as if Lallana will be back. He's been in training all week – as has Daniel Sturridge, for what that's worth – but if he's only fit enough for the bench, we'll see the exact XI we saw in the last two matches. The one with one open play shot on-target in the last two matches. Wooooo.

And, of course, the "don't do anything dumb in defense" remains a concern. Will probably always remain a concern; not as consistently bad as we all make it out to be, but perpetually lurking in the background ready to strike. And these are the games that seem to frighten the most.

Away from home. Against a mid-to-lower table side (even if Watford currently sit 10th, there's next-to-nothing between 9th and 15th). Against opposition Liverpool *should* beat, against opposition Liverpool handily beat at home early in the season when the attack was afire. Against opposition which doesn't really care to have much possession and likes to defend deep. Against opposition happy to ugly up a game as much as possible; no side has more yellow cards this season and only West Ham and Hull have more red cards. Against a target-man striker who's good in the air and on the counter, against a midfield who'll have two reasonably good pressers, and against fast, counter-attacking wingers and full-backs.

And against opposition who've been surprisingly competent on their own ground lately. Watford have been officially bad on their travels almost all season long, but they've won three in a row at home, keeping clean sheets in all three. The last time they conceded at home was against Southampton on March 4. Liverpool have conceded six at home since – to Burnley, Everton, Bournemouth (twice), and Palace (twice). They've lost at home just twice in 2017, the same total as Liverpool, and that was against Tottenham and Southampton. Liverpool, I don't hesitate to remind, did it against Swansea and Palace.

Admittedly, those three consecutive Watford home wins came against Sunderland, West Brom, and Swansea, but let's not mention how Liverpool fared in a couple of matches against those sides. And Liverpool's kept just one clean sheet in their last nine – like Watford, against West Brom, but with Liverpool winning 1-0 where Watford won 2-0.

Watford have gotten healthier – relatively speaking – at a helpful time, with Deeney, Capoue, and Prödl all missing matches either last month or earlier in this. Pereyra, Zarate, Watson, Kaboul, and Cathcart are all still absent, but Deeney's far more crucial to the attack, Capoue to the midfield, and Prödl to the defense.

Tomorrow's XI is likely to be Gomes; Janmaat, Prödl, Britos, Holebas; Capoue, Doucoure, Cleverley; Amrabat, Deeney, Niang. In addition to Deeney and Capoue, Amrabat and Niang are dangerous wingers, and both Janmaat and Holebas are very good at getting forward from full-back. And it's not as if Liverpool have defended the flanks well lately, especially in matches where the full-backs have to join the attack because of the opposition's deep defense.

Last week was a complete and comprehensive failure, against opposition who'll play a lot like Monday's opponents will play. And that match was at Anfield, where – despite those losses to Palace and Swansea – Liverpool have usually been far better in both attack and defense.

There are only four matches left, and both City and United could and probably will be ahead of Liverpool by kick-off on Monday. Another failure is simply not an option.

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