The whole LFC squad as well as the fan base are currently in cloud nine, ‘Premier League’ is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. The utter confidence currently being shown by the fan base is mirrored on the football field, virtually every player who has put on that shirt with the Liverpool crest oozes confidence and class. This is what we call: ‘The Jurgen Klopp Effect’. Liverpool are now unbeaten in eleven games and it seems like they are currently unstoppable. A few days ago LFC fans witnessed an exquisite offensive display from the team in toxic green, a 4-2 victory at Selhurst Park that could have ended up in double figures, however with no natural striker in the XI you tend to lose the ability to be clinical at the expense of more chances being created, and clearly it’s working wonders (what else would you expect from Klopp’s tactics!) A midweek EFL Cup tie against Spurs allowed most of the squad players to get a chance to prove themselves in 60-90 minutes of football, and they did just that! The back of the newspapers on Wednesday morning reiterated who ran the show and fired Liverpool into the quarter finals with yet another brace, it was ‘The Daniel Sturridge Show’.
The Hornets have had an immense season so far, sitting in seventh position with the Premier League powerhouses. Quite evidently Watford are more than capable of causing an upset as they demonstrated last season as well as this season already, beating Manchester United at home 3-1 and creating chaos in London at the Olympic Stadium, beating The Hammers 4-2 despite being two goals down after just half an hour. Watford certainly have the firepower up front to score a goal/goals with Deeney and Ighalo, therefore the defence has to be prepared mentally to remain calm and not give the opposition chances as Ighalo’s pace will certainly be hard to catch up with. Liverpool fans will be relieved that James Milner is reported to be fit to start at LB for the fixture, as this should prevent the likely exposure Moreno would cause despite his strong display against Palace.
Watford’s three/five at the back?
Watford manager, Walter Mazzarri, is left with a difficult choice with regards to how he sets up his team formation to face Liverpool. If the Watford manager decides to go with the three at the back set up that saw his side defeat Hull after a late own goal from Dawson, he faces the risk of being easily exploited by penetrating runs from all angles of the pitch with the front three as well as Lallana being used as the bait occasionally to draw defenders out of position, opening gaps for Firmino/Mane (as we saw at Selhurst Park; fourth goal). The other option being the five at the back defensive set up which wasn’t enough to score past a very poor Swansea side, never mind the next Premier League Champions… (jokes, one step at a time remember reds?…) My personal prediction is that Mazzarri is left with no choice other than the three at the back, the only way Watford can get something out of this fixture is by attacking, attacking and more attacking. This was also the way they set up against Manchester United therefore being countered with bags of pace (whether that’s Martial or Mane) clearly doesn’t worry them…
Klopp’s XI selection dilemma
As we all know, one of the targets for the summer was to have squad depth, Klopp wanted there to be fight for every position, nobody can feel safe, this was achieved! Wherever we look there’s comptetion: Karius v Mignolet, Moreno v Milner, Wijnaldum v Can v Henderson v Lallana, Firmino v Sturridge, the list could go on… However there are two particular ‘battles’ I’d like to reflect on: Karius v Mignolet and Can v Wijnaldum. Klopp is clearly placing trust in his newly bought German keeper (Karius) however so far it’s safe to say that he hasn’t impressed. @IndigoLFC wrote a piece recently about ‘fickle fans’ and he’s very right, the fact Karius hasn’t immediately shown great confidence in the penalty area isn’t a surprise, an example would be De Gea, the Spaniard had an average initial season and now he’s arguably the best keeper in the league, I feel as if Karius also needs this time and patience from the fans to well and truly settle in with the new coaching staff and league. Nevertheless, I also understand why some may argue that Mignolet deserves to start due to his impeccable attitude since being dropped and Karius not showing any sign that he is a superior keeper to Simon. This is why I think it was a great call by Klopp to (pressumably) make Mignolet the cup keeper, this ensures that neither keeper loses confidence and it’s also a proven method (Bravo and ter Stegen at Barcelona). Can v Wijnaldum is another ‘hot-topic’ dispute, Can has recently been given a chance against Crystal Palace and he took it well (scoring the opening goal) therefore it would be unfair to drop Emre after this performance. However again, there’s the counter argument that Wijnaldum doesn’t deserve to be dropped after his great influence and dictating of tempo so far in fixtures. With Lallana and Henderson both being in top form at the moment, I don’t see either being excluded from the XI which (might) mean Can will temporarily replace Wijnaldum, however I do think Gini will play a part in the Watford game regardless. Klopp is left with a tough choice, and nobody can blame him for picking one or the other!
Liverpool: Karius, Clyne, Matip, Lovren, Milner, Can, Henderson, Lallana, Mane, Firmino, Coutinho. (4-3-3)
Watford: Gomes, Britos, Kaboul, Prodl, Holebas, Capoue, Behrami, Pereyra, Amrabat, Deeney, Ighalo (3-5-2)
Predicted score: 3-1