After a stunning second half performance from Harry Wilson, Neil Critchley’s Liverpool Under 18s progressed to the 5th round of the FA Youth Cup, as they looked to go one better than they did last season. Following the 3-1 victory against Aston Villa at Langtree Park, the Reds drew Watford in the next round, after the Hornets beat cup holders Norwich City in the last round. So what is there to know about Liverpool’s next opponents?

Well they have had a tough route getting to the 5th round after their inclusion in the 3rd round of this year’s FA Youth Cup. Firstly, then overcame a tough test away at League One side Crawley Town after a brace from forward Alex Jakubiak secured a 2-0 victory in front of approximately 300 people. Then as mentioned before, they face Youth Cup holders Norwich City in the next round. And it was Jakubiak that got another goal after less than a minute to help his side comfortably beat the Canaries 3-1 at Vicarage Road.

After these two performances, it is clear to see why the Reds should be wary of these opponents, especially after Liverpool’s narrow win over another Championship side in the form of Blackpool in December and the Reds should not take Watford for granted. Additionally, the Hornets are on fine form domestically. In the 19 games they have played this season, Dave Hughes’ boys have picked up an impressive 42 points, winning almost 70& of the games they have played. Watford have only lost just 3 times all season and their heaviest defeat was a 2-0 loss at Peterborough United so it just goes to show that they are a tough side to come up against.
Another fascinating fact about the young Hornets is that they failed to score in only one game all season and that was at the loss to Peterborough whilst scoring 47 goals including 7 in a 7-0 win at home to Dagenham & Redbridge. In addition to this, they are unbeaten in their last 6 games winning 5 of them and are unbeaten in 2014. Also, they are unbeaten in their last 8 games at home, and have picked up points in 10 out of their 12 games this season.
However, it is not just in attack they are strong, Watford also have a very good defence record. In those 19 games they have played this season, the Hornets have conceded just 23 times, collecting 6 clean sheets in the process, so Liverpool will need to be on top form to beat their opponents, especially after they put 3 past Norwich in the last round.

The game is set up to be a cracker, and there will be battles all over the pitch. Liverpool come in to this game scoring 63 times this season, like their opponents, failing to score once all season whilst Watford have been prolific at the back, so that is already a key battle there.
The next battle comes at the over end of the pitch as Watford have scored 47 goals this season, whilst the Reds have conceded 49 times, picking up just 6 clean sheets in their 26 games this season. Now, after reading that stat, it may seem that Watford are likely to get a goal and it isn’t really a batlle, but Liverpool have been boosted by two key players returning from injury.
Firstly, Ryan Fulton returned from a fractured hand in the 1-0 win against Sunderland on Saturday where Neil Critchley’s boys picked up a clean sheet meaning Fulton will add much needed stability to the Liverpool goal. Next, young defensive midfielder Pedro Chirivella is back from injury to add assurance and play just in front of the back four to help limit the amount goals Watford may score. It will be interesting to see how these battles develop throughout the game but the only thing that is guaranteed is that it will be a cracking game.

Verdict:
Despite Watford’s very impressive stats, they do play two tiers below Liverpool and this is their only downfall. However, after their shock win at home to Norwich they can be a very tough opponent on their day so it is wrong to immediately rule out the hosts. Plus, after their narrow win at Blackpool, the Reds will learn not to take lower league sides for granted.
With the return of Fulton and Chirivella, mixed with the Reds’ deadly attack of Wilson, Kent, Brannagan and Sinclair, the game should be no problem for the Reds and my personal prediction is that Liverpool will win by two goals, so either a 2-0 win, or a 3-1 victory.

With the players Critchley has at his disposal, this is how I think Liverpool will line up.

Fulton; Randall, Jones, Williams, Maguire; Rossiter, Chirivella; Kent, Brannagan, Wilson; Sinclair.

Thanks for reading this FA Youth Cup preview and as always if you have something to say, don’t be shy to leave your comments below. What do you think the score will be? What would your team be? I’d love to hear from you. Also, for more Academy stats and predictions, then be sure to follow me on Twitter (@ScottTaylorUK).

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