The Big Match

Gracia's priority to end away-goal jinx

Watford manager Javi Gracia faces an uphill task as his team takes on Liverpool.
Watford manager Javi Gracia faces an uphill task as his team takes on Liverpool.PHOTO: REUTERS

Watford boss advocates the need to create chances to have any hope against Liverpool

LONDON • Since Javi Gracia made his Premier League debut as a manager in February, the Watford boss has yet to see his team score an away goal.

His job does not get any easier today, when he takes his side to Liverpool. The Reds are unbeaten at Anfield in the league this season and Gracia knows his defence will be tested by Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.

"Their front three is one of the best combinations - I don't know if it is the best in Europe or not, but they are not just about scoring goals: You must pay special attention to their movement and it will be a very demanding game for us," said Gracia.

The Hornets have just one point from three road trips - a 0-0 draw at Stoke City in his first league game in charge. They lost 0-2 at West Ham and 0-3 at Arsenal last weekend. But Gracia was heartened by the chances Watford created at the Emirates Stadium.

"I think it's important to see that in the last match, we created chances to score," he said.

"Then it's not so important, if you create chances we'll be able to score. We'll try against Liverpool."

That is indication enough that the Hornets will have some attacking ambition today.

COUNTERING THE PRESSURE

Their front three is one of the best combinations - I don't know if it is the best in Europe or not, but they are not just about scoring goals: You must pay special attention to their movement.

JAVI GRACIA, on the combined threat posed by Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.

TURNING THE TIDE

We will use what happened at United as motivation. In professional football, you need to be a little bit angry to bring your best on the pitch.

JURGEN KLOPP, on the need to make amends for his side's 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford last week.

After all, Gracia has warned that they will be stung if they invite Liverpool to attack.

"I know if we play an open game against Liverpool, we have a lot of chances to lose the game," he said.

"So we need to have a balance to be able to defend, but we need to attack as well - if you play this match only thinking about defending, you are going to lose for sure."

With both second-placed Manchester United and third-placed Tottenham Hotspur in FA Cup quarter-final action this weekend, Jurgen Klopp's fourth-placed side will go third if they avoid defeat by Watford.

Liverpool have never lost two consecutive league games under manager Jurgen Klopp.

And they will be eager to bounce back from their 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford last week.

Said Klopp: "Around the two goals we conceded, our formation wasn't right and our behaviour around the challenge wasn't right, the protection wasn't good. A little too late in mind. It shouldn't happen in any game, and for sure against United.

"We will use what happened at United as motivation. In professional football, you need to be a little bit angry to bring your best on the pitch.

"We keep the revenge feeling during the week as we want to go back to the winning side.

"I watched Arsenal against Watford, it was 3-0 but it was not a 3-0 game. It was a different game. Watford caused them a lot of problems and they are in a good momentum results-wise."

The German has more or less a full squad to choose from, with only defender Nathaniel Clyne definitely unavailable as he continues to recover from a long-term back injury.

They do have one other concern, though. German midfielder Emre Can has collected nine bookings this season, and one more today will bring him a two-match domestic suspension, keeping him out of the Merseyside derby against Everton at Goodison Park on April 8.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2018, with the headline 'Gracia's priority to end away-goal jinx'. Print Edition | Subscribe