Liverpool FC status

Frånvaroläge: Elliot(långtidsskadad), Thiago(skadad), Jones(skadad), Alisson(sent hem från landskamp), Fabinho(sent hem från landskamp)

Trolig startelva (4-3-3): Kelleher, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, van Dijk, Robertson – Henderson, Milner, Keita – Salah, Firmino, Mané

Tankar om elvan: Brasiliens landskamper tvingar oss till den ändringar i startelvan, den första är såklart målvaktsplatsen. Kelleher får kliva in i målet, då Alisson inte hinner hem i tid från Sydamerika. I backlinjen är det skadefritt nu när Alexander-Arnold är tillbaka, frågan är hur Klopp tänker med sina mittbackar. Vi har tre matcher på ganska kort tid nu och senast vi hade det så använde Klopp alla fyra mittbackarna, så det kan mycket väl bli så att vi får se Konate eller Gomez bredvid van Dijk i morgon. Att holländaren startar känns självklart, då han knappast vilas i en match där vi saknar vår förstemålvakt. Mittfältet är lite lurigt att få ihop, vi saknar i dagsläget fyra av alternativen och det gör att vi får anpassa oss efter det. Att Henderson tar Fabinhos plats är givet, kanske kan det vara något som kan få igång vår kapten lite, efter en lite trög säsongsinledning. Han får hjälp av Milner och Keita, Oxlade-Chamberlain är nog en bit efter i rangordningen, efter några svaga inhopp. I anfallet tror jag att Jota är den som vilas från start, men det har jag trott länge nu, utan att det hänt. Nu är portugisen precis tillbaka från skada och jag tror att det spelar in här. Det blir en lite sargad startelva, men den är fortfarande väldigt slagkraftig. Ett stort ansvar kommer att ligga på Naby Keita och nu när alla hans konkurrenter är frånvarande är det dags för honom att verkligen ta tag i taktpinnen.

Watford status
– Jason Bailey(@JasBailey), från podcasten From the rookery end @watfordpodcast

1.Watford is back in the Premier League, can you tell us a bit about your way back. Well it was done in true Watford style. We started with a new head coach of course, Vladimir Ivic, a whole host of former Premier League players heading out of the Vicarage Road exit door but still a reasonably familiar looking starting line-up from the remains of the squad. The start was steady, if not spectacular. Things seemed to be taking an upward turn when Ivic won the manager of the month award for November. However the football was somewhat turgid, rumours were abound of unhappy players, including captain Troy Deeney. And when the oft seen manager of the month curse struck, Watford being Watford, Ivic was sacked. In came Xisco Munoz whose first remit appeared to have been to make the players enjoy playing football again. After an opening 1-0 home win against the eventual champions Norwich City, there was a visible difference in the post-match celebrations and general demeanour of the squad. But it wasn’t an instant new manager bounce. Whilst the players were brighter in themselves, the football certainly wasn’t. Something had to change. And it came from the players. A suggestion to change style and formation to one that suited the playing squad better saw the deployment of a 433 and all of a sudden things started to click. Like an Olympic middle distance runner, the Hornets were gathering momentum just at the right time. A last minute winner from left back Adam Masina away to Cardiff was one of those defining moments that had you thinking… “It’s going to happen, isn’t it”. There were still bumps along the way, most notably defeat at the hands of rivals Luton. But an impressive win at Norwich to complete a double over the Canaries, followed by a slightly nervous home win against Millwall completed the quest and promotion was achieved at the first attempt.

2. You recently changed manager, what are your thoughts on the sacking of Xisco Munoz and the appointment of Claudio Ranieri?
The sacking of Munoz was, as expected, seen as something as a surprise from the outside. Cue the usual “Typical Watford, what do they expect, owners don’t know what they’re doing, etc, etc….” comments on social media and from a number of football pundits. However, there were also some murmurs of understanding from some of those in the press. They’re starting to get it. Yes, we have seven points from seven games. But we’d had reportedly the easiest start to the season in the Premier League when compared to our competitors’ fixture lists. We were lucky not to be dead and buried by half-time against Newcastle. We limped to defeat against Brighton and Wolves. And the Leeds performance was one of the worst seen in a long time. It needed to change. Yes we have been through a lot of head coaches. But we’ve spent six of the last seven seasons in the top flight, been to an FA Cup Final, a semi-final and a play-off final under the Pozzos stewardship. Not bad for a club who had previously only spent 8 out of the previous 131 years in the top flight. As for Claudio. Well he’s not Xisco! From a lad with the bare minimum of experience to a pensioner who’s pretty much done it all! The Pozzos have gone to a different playbook for their recruitment this time around. We’re hoping for Leicester Ranieri and not Fulham Ranieri. Who knows how it will pan out (Ok, we do, he’ll get the sack at some point), but I’m sure it will be fun along the way, even if just for his press conferences. Dilly Ding, Dilly Dong!!!!

3. How do you rate your squad compared to the squad you had the last time you played in the Premier League? 
We’ve not got the stars we had from before. No more the likes Pereyra or Deulofeu providing flair up front. The days of Doucoure and Capoue bossing the midfield long gone. We’ve had to start again and the recruitment has been more risk aware. No big names on bigger money. The remnants of the squad that won promotion has been added to, particularly in midfield with experienced heads like Moussa Sissoko. The attack is full of pace with the likes of Joshua King and Emmanuel Dennis coming on board. There are still questions as to whether the defence, especially in the centre back positions, has the wherewithal to cope with the step up in quality this season. On paper, the team that were relegated looks better. But perhaps the current squad has the fighting qualities that were so clearly lacking from the 2019-20 vintage.

4.Which players are most important to your team?
The obvious answer is Ismaila Sarr. It’s fair to say he’s probably too good for us. If he performs consistently well this season, you won’t see him in a Watford shirt for much longer. If he doesn’t, then we’re likely going to be in a spot of bother. There’s a couple of other experienced heads who we’ll be looking at to provide the necessary quality for the campaign to be a success. Danny Rose joined on a free transfer. Perhaps not in the best shape when he arrived. But having got into the team, his performances so far suggest he won’t be relinquishing the shirt anytime soon. And the afore mentioned World Cup winner Moussa Sissoko was a welcome addition to the squad. Under Xisco, he has been steady if not spectacular in an ever changing unsettled midfield. Here’s hoping for more consistency under Claudio.

5.Ismaila Sarr has been linked with Liverpool a few times in the past, how would you describe him as a player?
A clear talent who still has a touch of the raw about him. As a full back you don’t want to be chasing after the ball when up against him, or when he’s running at you with the ball at his feet. He can go past you on the outside, but don’t let him cut inside as you’ll soon discover his finishing ability. Happy to drift inside without the ball as well, don’t be surprised to see him pop up in central positions to finish chances as well as creating them. He is also comfortable tracking back and doing the defensive work. His transition back to Premier League football has been smooth and he is currently Watford’s top scorer with four goals.

6. How do you rate your chances of staying up this season? What will be most important for you to stay in the premier league over time?
I’m under no illusions and I think most fans feel the same. We are in for a tough season. We will be involved in the relegation battle. But we have talent in that squad. If we can churn out more performances like the one we saw at home to Aston Villa on the opening day of the season, then we should have just enough in the tank to keep our heads above water. If we can stay up, then a steady improvement of the playing squad will be key. And if Claudio does turn out to be the man to help us move forward, then it would be nice to have a settled head coach for a couple of seasons.

7. You play Liverpool next, last time you ended our streak of games without a loss, do you think you can do the same on Saturday?
Well, you never know! That’s the beauty of sport. Do I think we’ll record our third 3-0 win over Liverpool in recent times? No. Do I think we can keep a clean sheet again? Not with a somewhat injury ravaged defence. As to what will actually happen, I haven’t a clue!!! Ranieri’s first game, will he look to use the 442 formation he used so successfully in the Premier League at Leicester? Do we even have the players to fit that? I’m not sure we do. I know where the smart money will go. I just hope the Hornets prove them wrong.


Totaal reflektion: Frånvaron av våra brasilianska spelare kommer såklart bli kännbar, vi tappar en del defensiv stadga utan Alisson och Fabinho och det behöver vi försöka hantera. Kelleher har dock gjort det bra tidigare och Henderson brukar kunna kliva in på defensiv mitt när det krävs, så vi bör ha ett lag som slagkraftigt nog att utmanövrera Watford. Det ska sägas att vi hade svårt för londonlaget senast de var uppe och även om de bytt ut en hel del både spelare och ledare sedan dess är det här inte någon seger vi kan ta ut i förskott. Vi behöver hålla koll på Sarr, men så länge vi kliver in och gör en bra insats ska det vara nog för att plocka hem alla tre poängen.