Football: Liverpool in for battle against Watford, says new coach Ranieri

Watford's new manager Claudio Ranieri arrives as successor to Xisco Munoz, who left seven games into the season.
Watford's new manager Claudio Ranieri arrives as successor to Xisco Munoz, who left seven games into the season.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP, Reuters) - Watford's new manager Claudio Ranieri turns 70 next Wednesday (Oct 20), but feels that he is still young enough to take on the challenge of keeping the club in the Premier League this season.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp feels the same, as he praised the Italian's longevity in the game ahead of his side's trip to Vicarage Road on Saturday.

"Claudio looks younger than me and he obviously has a good genetic basis," said the German on Friday.

"I think he has had probably had more than 15 clubs, so definitely more than I can, because I'm already 54 and I'm not sure I can catch up. I hope I'm still in shape as Claudio is now at 69, but we can only use the time we have in our hands and not think too much about 15 years' time."

Ranieri arrives at Watford as successor to Xisco Munoz, who left seven games into the season.

The Italian, who led Leicester City to a shock league title in 2015-16 and last worked in England's top flight during the 2018-19 campaign with Fulham, said he was looking forward to his Premier League return and outlined his ambition for Watford.

"I never give up... I have a strong character, I am still young and I want to continue," said Ranieri, the 13th managerial appointment in nine years for the club's owner Gino Pozzo, who fired Spaniard Munoz in early October.

"I'm very happy to come back to the Premier League, (it's) one of the best leagues in the world. I'm an ambitious man and I hope to keep Watford safe this season.

"We have to be safe and then slowly we go up. Forty points we have to achieve and next season 41, then 42 and 43.

"On Saturday, there will be one of the best teams in the world... It will be a battle, and we will battle."

Watford are 15th in the league with seven points from as many games, while Liverpool are second, a point behind leaders Chelsea (16).

The Hornets have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 17 Premier League games, and that undesirable run is unlikely to end today against the only unbeaten side in the league this season.

In what looks to be a lopsided match on paper, Klopp's men are also now unbeaten in 19 fixtures in all competitions and have scored three goals in each of their last four Premier League away games.

But the Liverpool boss is taking nothing for granted. He said: "When you look at their last game against Leeds when they lost (1-0), Watford had a good idea about the game. They tried to build up with their football in wide positions, but the problem is when you lose the ball, the opposition has more space for counter-attacks. That is why Leeds won.

"Claudio said he wants to close the spaces. You want to start by making them compact and that is what we expect. If it is completely different, we have to deal with that. I do not have a crystal ball so we have to guess a little bit."

Liverpool will be without Brazil internationals Fabinho and Alisson for their trip after they played for their country on Thursday. Watford are missing injured players Francisco Sierralta (hamstring) and Christian Kabasele (thigh), while Josh King is a doubt.