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Liverpool should be concerned about what Watford have just done

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When Liverpool travel to Vicarage Road to face Watford on Saturday lunchtime, the circumstances regarding the Hornets’ appointment of their new manager Claudio Ranieri will chime with a pair of similar examples from the past.

In Jurgen Klopp’s time in England, the Reds have played two mid-season league matches in which the opposing manager was taking charge of his first game for the club.

One was against a side who had just replaced Ranieri in the hot-seat, the other was against Watford themselves.

It feels like the worst time to play a struggling team, as they inevitably get a boost from the players trying to impress the new man in charge. It’s no wonder Liverpool supporters feel wary when their side is faced with such a match.

And a look back at the eight examples which have occurred in the Premier League era shows that Kopites are right to be concerned ahead of these games, especially when they occur away from the safer confines of Anfield.

How do Liverpool fare when facing a new manager’s first game? Let’s find out.

Liverpool 2-0 Watford, December 2019

With the Reds set to depart for Qatar for the Club World Cup, they first had to host a ‘top versus bottom’ Premier League clash against Watford.

Nigel Pearson was the new man in charge, and although a brace from Mohamed Salah ensured Liverpool won, Watford fluffed their lines with several very presentable chances in the first half.

Leicester City 3-1 Liverpool, February 2017

Less than a year after Ranieri had guided Leicester to the most unlikely title in English football history, he was replaced by his assistant Craig Shakespeare.

With the King Power Stadium rocking, two goals from Jamie Vardy sandwiched a long-range strike by Danny Drinkwater to put the Foxes 3-0 up. Philippe Coutinho pulled one back for the away side, but it was far too little too late.

Sunderland 1-3 Liverpool, September 2013

From a Liverpool perspective, this game was most notable for being Luis Suarez’ first in the league since the end of his 10-game suspension for biting Branislav Ivanovic.

Sunderland had just fired Paolo Di Canio and had installed Kevin Ball as caretaker ahead of the permanent appointment of Gus Poyet. An opening goal from Daniel Sturridge and two from Suarez left the Black Cats rooted to the bottom of the Premier League though.

Newcastle United 3-1 Liverpool, December 2010

Prior to this match, Newcastle supporters protested outside St James Park due to their anger at Chris Hughton having been fired by Mike Ashley. His successor, Alan Pardew, did at least hit the ground running with a comfortable win over Roy Hodgson’s Reds.

Soon-to-be Liverpool player Andy Carroll sealed the victory with a fine strike from outside the box, while Dirk Kuyt scored the visitors’ only goal. The result saw Newcastle leapfrog their opponents in the table, and three league games later Liverpool would be looking for a new manager themselves.

Liverpool 1-0 Portsmouth, October 2008

Thanks to the events of the final match of the 1988/89 season, Tony Adams’ career will always be entwined with Liverpool. His spell in charge of Portsmouth took this to extreme lengths, as the Reds provided the opposition for both his first and last league matches with the club.

The former Arsenal skipper replaced Harry Redknapp at Pompey and brought his new side to Anfield for a midweek match. A Steven Gerrard penalty was all that separated the teams, and it kept Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table.



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Liverpool 2-0 Blackburn Rovers, November 1998

Speaking of Gerrard, he made his Liverpool debut as a late substitute when Blackburn visited the red half of Merseyside shortly after they had dispensed with the services of a certain Roy Hodgson.

The match became Gerard Houllier’s first Anfield win in sole control of the club, thanks to first half goals from Paul Ince and Michael Owen. Rovers’ caretaker boss Tony Parkes was soon replaced by Brian Kidd but he was unable to prevent the champions of just four years earlier from being relegated.

Aston Villa 2-1 Liverpool, February 1998

As if facing a new manager wasn’t hard enough – with John Gregory having taken over from Brian Little – Liverpool also had to cope with a former player who had a point to prove in this match.

Michael Owen put the visitors ahead from the penalty spot in the sixth minute but that was about as good as it got for Roy Evans’ team.

Ex-Red Stanley Victor Collymore (as Gregory would later insist on calling him in full) scored twice to condemn his previous team to defeat.

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Everton 2-0 Liverpool, November 1994

Everton were not accustomed to life in the Premier League relegation zone, so manager Mike Walker had to go. His replacement, former Blues player Joe Royle, made himself immediately even more popular by winning a Merseyside derby in his first game.

Boyhood Blues Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman and Ian Rush all started to ensure Liverpool had plenty of attacking talent on show but goals from Duncan Ferguson and Paul Rideout decided the game.

The current Reds will head to Vicarage Road this weekend with their club holding an even record of four wins and four losses when facing a new manager in a Premier League match.

However, their record of four defeats from five such games away from home will certainly leave their supporters feeling apprehensive ahead of the clash.



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