Watford vs Liverpool
As Premier League games go, this is what you call an away banker.
The champions-elect against a side which has failed to win in its last five league games and is back in the drop zone.
Liverpool’s latest contribution to Premier League news this week was a home victory against West Ham which meant Jurgen Klopp’s men equalled an English top-flight record of 18 successive wins, set by Manchester City from August to December 2017.
Indeed, Klopp’s side last dropped points in a 1-1 draw with Manchester United in October.
Watford’s last game was at Old Trafford where, despite a bit of bad luck, they returned home well beaten.
No wonder the SBOTOP Premier League betting odds are so one-sided.
However, I do not think this is an away banker.
Watford may be in the bottom three (they have been for all but one weekend this season) and on a bad run of form but Nigel Pearson has improved the Hornets, who were the only side in the top four English divisions to be without a points tally of double figures when he arrived in December.
He has, at least, give them a genuine chance of survival with only four points separating five clubs at the foot of the table.
In fact, Watford frustrated Liverpool and maintained their organisation in Pearson’s first game in charge just over two months ago and will be keen to do the same and then find their ‘sting’ on the counter-attack.
Until last weekend, Pearson’s team had dropped eight points from winning positions in their last three matches, his otherwise so far impressive job at risk of being undermined by an inability to see out games.
The side actually needs the points more than the runaway leaders, although the Merseysiders will be keen to surpass the record of soon to be disposed champions City.
The stats do not make good reading for home fans.
Watford have lost a club record 19 top-flight matches to Liverpool who are also unbeaten in eight league games against them, outscoring the Hornets 27-4 (won seven, drawn one).
In Mo Salah, they have a player who has been involved in nine goals in five Premier League games against Watford, scoring eight, while Sadio Mane has four Premier League assists against the Hornets.
Given that Watford have conceded 43 goals in their 27 league games to date, I am not expecting this to end goalless.
But, as I said, I think this will be closer than people think. There’s too much at stake for it not to be.
Since their very first meeting in the FA Cup in 1967 (which did end goalless incidentally), Watford have only managed to defeat Liverpool five times with four draws and 24 victories for the Reds.
Last season, Liverpool won convincingly in this fixture, 3-0 at Vicarage Road, courtesy of second-half goals from Salah, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino.
The season before, however, was an opening day thriller.
Salah was again on target, in what was his Liverpool debut, along with Mane and Firmino but spirited Watford, under Marco Silva (also his first game in charge of the club), were not to be denied and grabbed a last-gasp equaliser through Miguel Britos.
Stefano Okaka and Abdoulaye Doucoure also found the net in an exciting contest which ended 3-3.
Watford last beat Liverpool in December 2015 when Nathan Ake put them in front before an Odion Ighalo double sealed a comprehensive 3-0 success.
Only Firmino and captain Jordan Henderson remain regulars from the team Klopp selected that day.
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