Liverpool’s recent surge in the bid for a spot in the Champions League suffered a minor dent last week, when a lively Crystal Palace team – that has beaten Arsenal and league leaders Chelsea recently – handed the Reds a defeat at home. Still, Jürgen Klopp’s team is anchored in the favourable third spot in the Premier League table, and odds are in favour of the team to continue their form when the meet Watford on Monday.
Klopp is also hopeful that Adam Lallana makes a much-awaited return from injury. The midfielder suffered a thigh injury in March and has been unavailable for Liverpool duty since their March 19 game against Manchester City. The player has resumed practice at Melwood and is eying the trip to Watford for his comeback.
Despite the loss against Palace, the Reds were the more dominant side, enjoying over 72 percent possession over the 90 minutes. It’s a steely competence that saw them win five in their run of seven consecutive undefeated games before the Palace tie.
Though Watford, placed 10th, are another hardy side, the visitors are expected to run away with three points.
The onus of leading the attack-line will fall on the Brazilian pair of Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino. The combination between the two has been exceptional for Liverpool, as their understanding works well to break up defences with an array of through balls, and in Coutinho’s case, shots from distance.
The 24-year-old scored the only goal for Liverpool against Palace, marking his 13th goal scored from outside the box. Ever since he made his debut for the Anfield side in 2013, his tally has only been bettered by Yaya Toure’s 14 goals from distance for Manchester City.
Firmino too has been prolific, knocking in two back-to-back winners against Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion – the latter being a contender for goal of the season – shortly before the Palace game.
At the same time, there is optimism in the way Simon Mignolet has been working under the bar. The Belgian goalkeeper has risen in form and has bailed out his defence with crucial saves in recent weeks.
The loss at Palace has alerted the team, with Emre Can going on record to state that the margin of error has now significantly decreased to close in on a Champions League spot and that they might need to win four out of their remaining four matches to clinch it.
Currently placed third, with 66 points, the two Manchester clubs are in hot pursuit of the Reds. City are fourth with 65 points and United fifth with 64, but both the teams have a game in hand.