With 16 places and 47 points separating them in the Premier League table, Liverpool and Watford resume top-flight action with Saturday’s lunchtime kickoff at Anfield.
The second-placed Reds find themselves just one point behind Manchester City at the summit, while Roy Hodgson‘s side are three points adrift of safety in 18th.
Only a couple of months after Liverpool had seemingly conceded the crown to Man City once again, we have a title race on our hands, and Jurgen Klopp‘s side are showing no signs of faltering as they continue their pursuit of an unprecedented quadruple.
Diogo Jota‘s close-range effort against Nottingham Forest saw Liverpool advance to the semi-finals of the FA Cup just before the international break – with the FA controversially refusing to move the fixture from Wembley despite travel disruption – and there is the small matter of next week’s Champions League quarter-final first leg with Benfica to come as well.
With their only defeat in any competition since the turn of the year being that inconsequential loss to Inter Milan on their own turf, Liverpool are now within touching distance of Man City at the summit before the two heavyweights meet in a mouthwatering showdown on April 10 and would go top with a win here for at least a couple of hours before the champions meet Burnley.
It is now nine Premier League victories in a row for this rampant Liverpool outfit – who have kept clean sheets in each of their last four in the top flight and have scored 23 in their sparkling winning run – and Anfield is not often a happy hunting ground for visiting teams.
Indeed, Klopp’s crop welcome Watford to Merseyside having won each of their last nine Premier League games at Anfield – where they are unbeaten domestically for over a year – and their tally of seven home goals conceded this term is unlikely to worsen against the goal-shy Hornets.
Roy Hodgson’s stint in the home dugout at Anfield may have been incredibly short-lived, but the 74-year-old is no stranger to taking his spot in the visiting end, and he may just have uncovered a hidden gem in his side’s fight against the drop.
A couple of weeks on from his stunning yet inconsequential bicycle kick against Arsenal, Cucho Hernandez was at the double for Watford to propel them to a crucial 2-1 victory over Southampton at St Mary’s, with the Hornets holding on for the entire second half after Mohamed Elyounoussi‘s effort.
Hernandez has had to be patient for his opportunities in black and yellow but has certainly staked his claim for a regular first-team role now – Colombia could have done with him after missing out on a spot in the World Cup – but Watford’s survival destiny is still out of their own hands.
Indeed, Hodgson’s side remain below the dotted line in 18th and sit three points adrift of 17th-placed Everton – who have two games in hand – but a record of just two defeats from their last seven league games away from home is a cause for slight optimism.
However, Liverpool produced a five-star showing to thrash their upcoming opponents 5-0 at Vicarage Road back in October, and Watford are on a six-game Premier League losing run at Anfield since Graham Taylor oversaw a 1-0 win in August 1999.
Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold is fighting to recover from his hamstring injury in time for Saturday’s game, but the midweek encounter with Benfica is a more realistic aim for the Premier League’s leading creator.
Naby Keita will need assessing after pulling out of international duty with a “minor” knee issue, but James Milner and Andy Robertson are expected to be available again following recent COVID-19 infections.
With Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane both going the distance in their pivotal World Cup qualifier, Klopp may elect to rotate a tad for Saturday’s game, with Liverpool facing an unforgiving run of fixtures over the Easter period.
As for Watford, Jeremy Ngakia was once again absent for the Southampton win but should be fine to return here, while Nicolas Nkoulou could also apply for a place in the squad.
Hodgson may be tempted to bring in another defender or two to try to keep the scoreline respectable, but the veteran boss has little reason to alter the winning formula from St Mary’s.
Such a setup would see Joao Pedro and Emmanuel Dennis join Hernandez in the final third, but Ismaila Sarr returned from injury for Senegal during the international break and could force his way in.
Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Alisson; Gomez, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Firmino, Jota
Watford possible starting lineup:
Foster; Femenia, Kabasele, Samir, Kamara; Louza, Sissoko, Kucka; Hernandez, Pedro, Dennis
Following Hot Games:
Wolves vs Aston Villa
Chelsea vs Brentford
Leeds United vs Southampton
Burnley vs Manchester City
Brighton Hove Albion vs Norwich City
Manchester United vs Leicester City