Watford vs. Liverpool
Venue: Vicarage Road
Kick off: 6:30PM
Liverpool’s march towards Premier League immortality takes them to Vicarage Road this evening as they face Watford with yet more history beckoning.
Just 12 points from claiming the title, Jurgen Klopp’s side would set a new Premier League record for consecutive victories should they chalk up a 19th in a row this weekend, but take on a Watford side that ran them close in the reverse fixture at Anfield.
Twelve points is all Liverpool need to finally put their league title ghost to bed as they head into another week with another record available for their relentless and remarkable team.
When Manchester City went a full half-season without dropping a single point in 2017-18, it was suggested that such a feat would never be repeated, yet Liverpool got to within one of the record earlier this season before subsequently winning each of their last 18 games to match Pep Guardiola’s centurions.
Klopp’s class of 2019-20 have perhaps not done it in such spectacular fashion, but should they claim a 19th successive win as expected this weekend, then it would be another piece of evidence in the growing argument that this is one of the greatest teams English football has ever seen.
The stats certainly suggest so: Monday night’s 3-2 triumph over West Ham United was closer than many expected, but it means that Liverpool have now gained as many points as Manchester United’s treble-winners from 1998-99 and as many wins as Arsenal’s Invincibles from 2003-04.
Those are two teams unanimously included in the argument of the best ever, and yet Liverpool have matched their league feats with a whopping 11 games of the season remaining.
The Reds are also closing in on the Invincibles in the unbeaten stakes with the West Ham win taking their tally to 44, just five short of the all-time record in English football held by Arsene Wenger’s side.
Liverpool have dropped just 10 points from 132 available in that time and have taken a staggering 106 from the last 108 on offer, which is an unprecedented run of form leaving them on course to gain a scarcely-believable tally of 112 points this season alone.
Klopp’s description of his players as ‘mentality monsters’ becomes more apt every week, with Monday’s result the 18th game they have won by a single-goal margin across all competitions this season, while they have also triumphed on penalties twice.
Now masters of getting the job done, Liverpool’s lead at the top of the table stands at 22 points and leaves them needing only 12 more – or four more wins – to finally confirm the inevitability of their first top-flight title in 30 years.
With such a commanding lead the challenge will be to ensure that the players do not get distracted by other factors in their treble bid, particularly with an FA Cup clash away to Chelsea coming up and the must-win second leg against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League looming next month.
The narrow margin by which Liverpool have won many of their games this season has helped to stave off the threat of complacency, though, and they know just how tricky a proposition Watford can be after the reverse tie at Anfield in December.
The Hornets were rock-bottom with only nine points and one win from 16 games when they travelled to Merseyside for what was Nigel Pearson’s first game in charge and, while they ultimately lost 2-0, they arguably deserved a point having spurned a couple of golden chances to snatch something from the game against all the odds.
Watford’s improved performance was soon reflected in their results, though, with that Liverpool loss proving to be their only defeat in Pearson’s first eight games at the helm across all competitions – a run of form which briefly lifted them out of the relegation zone.
However, that honeymoon period is now well and truly over and Watford welcome the champions-elect having lost four of their last five games across all competitions, including defeats to Liverpool’s Merseyside neighbours Tranmere Rovers and Everton.
The Everton defeat, which came in their most recent home game, was particularly galling as Watford failed to win a Premier League match at Vicarage Road after being two goals ahead for the first time, conceding twice in first-half stoppage time and then again in second-half stoppage time.
Only West Ham and Norwich City have picked up fewer points in front of their own fans this season, although the Hornets have also only lost five of their 13 home games – the same number as fourth-placed Chelsea.
Since the Everton defeat Pearson’s side have drawn at Brighton & Hove Albion and been well beaten by Manchester United, leaving them right back in the relegation mire with 11 games of the season remaining.
The situation is certainly less bleak than when they last faced Liverpool – the gap to safety now is only one point – but they know that they need to stop the rot sooner rather than later with the clubs around them all capable of picking up unexpected results.
Watford may need to do the same with three of the top four to come in their next six games, although there are not many stats to encourage them against Liverpool.
Indeed, the Hornets are the joint-lowest scorers in the Premier League this season and come up against the league’s best defence, which has kept 10 clean sheets in their last 12 top-flight matches.
Watford possible XI: Foster, Dawson, Kabasele, Cathcart, Masina, Hughes, Capoue, Sarr, Doucoure, Deulofeu, Deeney.
Liverpool possible XI: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mane.