Watford (4-2-3-1) Gomes; Janmaat, Kaboul, Britos, Holebas; Doucoure, Chalobah; Amrabat, Cleverley, Pereyra; Okaka.
Substitutes: Pantilimon, Prödl, Femenía, Watson, Capoue, Richarlison, Gray.
Liverpool (4-3-3) Mignolet; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Lovren, Moreno; Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Substitutes: Karius, Klavan, Gomez, Milner, Grujic, Solanke, Origi.
Referee Anthony Taylor.
Ah, the first day of a new season. A time to dream; a time to lovingly unwrap your 48th consecutive pair of Adidas Sambas; a time to wonder whether effing Barcelona are going to nick your best player again. It’s pretty sad that Liverpool’s opening game at Watford will be partially overshadowed by Philippe Coutinho’s decision to submit a transfer request. It’s another reminder that, in Football Inc., the actual football becomes less important with every passing year. (It’s also why the transfer window should shut in the first week of August, but that’s another story.)
Coutinho isn’t fit for today’s match against Watford, which is probably a blessing for all concerned. Even if they lose him to Barcelona, Liverpool have a chance of winning their first title in 28 years. At their best they are the most exhilarating side in the country. Their concerns are a lack of consistency and a return to the Champions League, which means an increased workload for a pretty thin squad. Oh, and effing Barcelona.
Watford’s ambitions are slightly more modest. After nine managers in five years, they just want a bit of stability. The brilliant Marco Silva should give them that, and perhaps even their greatest days since Graham Taylor was manager in the 1980s. He has made some intriguing – and intriguingly English – signings, including Andre Gray and Will Hughes. Mo Salah should make his Liverpool debut too, but most of the talk will be about a man who isn’t playing.
Kick-off is at 12.30pm.