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Roy Hodgson’s best Watford XI after the international break as stars return for Liverpool clash

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Watford’s last outing saw them claim a hugely important away victory against Southampton in the Premier League.

Now with just nine games left to play in the division, the Hornets find themselves three points from safety with Everton looking like the one team they could potentially catch up with.

Speaking after the 1-0 win over the Saints, manager Roy Hodgson spoke about how the international break is a bit of a hindrance to the club’s momentum as a number of players will be jetting across the world to represent their nations instead of putting in the hours at London Colney.

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He said: “Ray [Lewington] and I would have been turning cartwheels at the thought we could have three weeks now with the team without a game to really work on what we’re trying to do, to try and improve aspects of the play that we think can be improved. We’d have been delighted.

“But the trouble is, they’re all going away to far-flung corners of the world. And we won’t see them again, until two days before we play Liverpool. They will come back, if we’re lucky, do one session with us on the Thursday, and then it’ll be on a coach to go to a hotel on Friday up in Liverpool.”

While the break between the Southampton win and the upcoming Liverpool fixture has no doubt caused some frustration for Hodgson, there are potentially some benefits as it will allow a number of key first-team players to return to full fitness.

With that in mind, here is the HertsLive prediction on what the team to play at Anfield might be:

Goalkeeper – Ben Foster

While there is plenty of doubt regarding who the Watford goalkeeper may be next season, for now it looks as though Foster is very much the man for the job.

He has started every game under Hodgson so far and that looks unlikely to change even with Daniel Bachmann – who is currently away with Austria – ready and waiting in the wings.

Despite that, barring injury, it seems unlikely that Foster will lose his spot between now and the end of the season.

Full backs – Kiko Femenia & Hassane Kamara

Another area of the field that is well stocked for alternatives but unlikely to change is the position of full-back. Indeed, on each flank there are two capable options, but it feels like rotation will not be opted for unless needed.

At right-back, Femenia did have to come off early against Wolves – in the week before the Southampton match – however, he recovered in time to play the whole game at St Mary’s. This break hopefully would have allowed him the time to fully recover from any lingering issues. With that in mind, Jeremy Ngakia will probably remain on the bench at best.

Elsewhere Kamara has impressed so much for the Hornets since arriving in January he earned a call up to the Ivory Coast squad. Sadly, he was left on the bench against France, but could play a part against England next week. Adam Masina has not been able to get himself back into the team and this doesn’t look like changing any time soon.

Centre backs – Christian Kabasele & Samir

The middle of defence is one area that could receive a boost thanks to the international break. Last time out, Cathcart had to settle for a spot on the bench with Christian Kabasele starting ahead of him.

A solid performance against the Saints will probably mean that the duo of Kabasele and Samir keep their place against Liverpool. But Cathcart did play the full 90 minutes for Northern Ireland in their 3-1 win over Luxembourg, and the reset may prompt Hodgson to return the defensive pairing that he has favoured since arriving.

On top of that, Nicolas Nkoulou may also be in contention to play a part. Before the international break, he stepped up his recovery from a hamstring break with an outing for the club’s U23 team. This extra time off may see him even fit enough to make an appearance at Anfield.

Central midfield – Imran Louza, Moussa Sissoko and Juraj Kucka

Hodgson has preferred a midfield three of late, and it seems fairly probable that he will employ that formation once again to match up man-for-man with Liverpool’s set-up.

Against Southampton, all three players were fantastic with Kucka possibly having his best game in a Watford shirt. He and Sissoko have not gone away with their countries for international duty, so that should help them stay fit and in Hodgson’s thinking.

Louza may be at risk, as he has flown to Africa for a couple of important World Cup play-off matches with Morocco. But those games are against midfield teammate Edo Kayembe’s DR Congo, so he too could be fatigued.

Potentially this could leave space for Tom Cleverley to reclaim a spot in the team as he has remained in Hertfordshire too. But if he can stay fit, Louza should retain his place.

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Forwards – Cucho Hernandez, Emmanuel Dennis, & Ismaila Sarr

Possibly the biggest advantage of this break is the return of Ismaila Sarr. Injury has kept him from the team ever since the 0-0 draw with Manchester United on March 6, but he still went off to play for Senegal this week.

While the club may fear he is being rushed back to action, Sarr has at least been getting himself back to full fitness as he started for his country against Egypt most recently. Those minutes back in the legs could potentially mean he is fit and ready to play against Liverpool.

Alongside him in the attack, Dennis and Cucho could be tasked with trying to help break on the counter.

Cucho, in particular, has found some good goalscoring form of late – with a stunning effort against Arsenal, and two more strikes against Southampton – so it would be harsh for Hodgson to drop him.

Josh King had been struggling with a knock of late and didn’t start against the Saints. This break has hopefully allowed him to recover and he could be put into the team too ahead of any one of the three forwards aforementioned.

https://www.hertfordshiremercury.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/roy-hodgsons-watford-liverpool-clash-6864442