Liverpool begin their 2017/18 Premier League campaign away at Watford this Saturday lunchtime, the second fixture of the Premier League calendar following Leicester City’s trip to Arsenal on Friday night.
Off the back of the news that key man Philippe Coutinho has handed in a transfer request, the Reds need a win to lift the spirits.
This is the second full season that Liverpool will be under the tutelage of the enigmatic Jurgen Klopp, but for Watford there is a new man in the dugout in Marco Silva.
The former Hull City boss could not save them from relegation, but made enough of an impact in his short time in English football for Watford, who sacked Walter Mazzarri at the end of last season, to take a gamble on him.
Neither side has made the number of new signings that they might have envisaged at the start of the window, but new faces likely to play a part in the match include Mohamed Salah for the Reds and Nathaniel Chalobah and Will Hughes – the latter often linked with Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers – for the hosts.
£18.5 million club-record signing Andre Gray may also play a part, a man who scored for previous club Burnley against Liverpool early on last season in what proved to be the Reds worst performance of the season.
Despite the lack of activity regarding the likes of Naby Keita and Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool have had a successful pre-season, where they have won six and drawn two of their eight friendlies, only losing on penalties to Atletico Madrid, 24 hours after beating Bayern Munich on their own patch.
The only negatives were injuries to Adam Lallana, who will miss the whole of August and September, and Nathaniel Clyne, although the full-back will be ably deputised by 19-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is more than capable of stepping up.
The biggest loss is Philippe Coutinho who is yet to recover from a sore back, having sat out of the final friendly against Athletic Bilbao. The Barcelona situation is ongoing but Liverpool have insisted in an official statement that they will not sell this summer.
Jordan Henderson, who also missed the Dublin game against Bilbao through illness, should be fit to return to the line-up at Vicarage Road.
Daniel Sturridge, who had looked sharp until picking up a knock in the game with Bayern Munich, was hoping to be in contention, but given his track record with injuries, he is likely to be given as long as he needs to fully overcome any problem. A return at 1899 Hoffenheim on Tuesday is most likely.
Watford’s pre-season ended last Saturday with a 0-0 draw with Real Sociedad at Vicarage Road, which doubled up a remembrance match for former manager Graham Taylor.
They had previously won away at Viktoria Plzen and Spanish outfit SD Eibar, but lost closer to home away at AFC Wimbledon and drew 0-0 with Aston Villa. Time will tell whether Marco Silva has had sufficient opportunity to get his message across.
Fans of Liverpool, and in fact the Premier League in general, will be excited to see how the exciting and dynamic trio of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah fare, assuming all three are able and picked to start.
Watford will not be looking forward to the counter-attacks Liverpool will try and spring on them, but they will not be last side fearing the pace the two Liverpool wingers Mane and Salah offer.
In his first press conference of the new season, Jurgen Klopp was of course questioned on the future of Coutinho.
“No, he’s not available,” he said, but because of injury rather than a transfer.
“He’s not been training since last Friday. He’s a doubt for Tuesday (as well) unfortunately”.
He insisted once again that Coutinho will not be sold, although he was speaking before the transfer request had been delivered to Michael Edwards via email at around 1pm.
“I can’t keep players happy. If you are not happy, you won’t be if I say ‘be happy’”, Klopp said.
“It is not about this at this moment. For me, the bigger issue is that he is unable to play (through injury). It is not for you, it is between me and all the boys, not just Phil”.
Klopp also had kind words for opposite man Marco Silva.
“He’s a very dominant coach – you can see all the things he brought at Hull.
“Their style of play is clear; they are a football playing side. We know where we have to defend and where to use the space in our offensive play”.
The German ended in typically entertaining style. When asked if he had a favourite moment from the 25 years of the Premier League, which was formed in 1992, he simply said, “No”.
Both Klopp and Liverpool will be hoping they can make some memories this coming season, and starting with a win would be ideal.
WHEN DOES THE GAME KICK OFF?
The match starts at 12:30 BST and is live on Sky Sports in the UK.
WHO IS THE REFEREE?
Anthony Taylor – Liverpool have won three and drawn two of their last five games when Taylor has refereed. He has given eight yellow cards to Liverpool players in that time, and no reds.
He refereed two Watford games with contrasting fortunes for the Hornets: the first was a 3-2 win at home to Everton, with the second a 4-0 loss to Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
Liverpool scored more goals against Watford last season than any other side that they faced (apart from Arsenal, who they also put seven past), scoring six past them at Anfield in November before Emre Can’s spectacular overhead kick earned a 0-1 win at Vicarage Road at the beginning of May.
Liverpool: Mignolet; Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Matip, Milner; Henderson, Can, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane
Watford: Gomes; Janmaat, Prodl, Britos, Holebas; Chalobah, Doucoure; Pereyra, Cleverley, Amrabat; Gray
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