Nigel Pearson could not have wished for a tougher start to life in the Watford dugout as his basement-dwelling side visit runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool at Anfield today.
No doubt, the Reds will be looking to move 11 points clear of Leicester City in what is their final league game before Christmas, whereas Watford remain rooted to the foot of the table with six points now separating them from safety.
Indeed, the glitz and glamour of the Club World Cup in Qatar awaits Liverpool next week in addition to an EFL Cup quarter-final, but first they must pass their final league test before Christmas.
On paper, it looks like the most straightforward one possible for the Reds, who have won 24 of their last 25 top-flight outings including 15 of 16 this term to storm into an eight-point lead over Leicester and a whopping 14-point advantage over champions Manchester City.
Last weekend’s 3-0 cruise at Bournemouth ensured that Liverpool will be top on Christmas Day despite the chasing pack having the chance to catch up while the leaders are in Qatar, although the Merseysiders are responsible for the last three occasions that a team has topped the table at Christmas but failed to go on and win the title.
Looking at how things are playing out, the signs so far point to this season being different to those of the past, but should Jurgen Klopp’s side suffer an unlikely slip-up this weekend and Leicester keep their winning run going then the Foxes would suddenly have the chance to leapfrog Liverpool at the top of the table when they face off in a huge Boxing Day clash.
Such a situation contains a number of improbable hypotheticals, though, not least Liverpool seeing their 33-match unbeaten Premier League run and 15-match league winning streak at Anfield coming to an end at the hands of the division’s basement club.
Liverpool have not enjoyed playing many teams more than Watford in recent years, winning six and losing none of their last seven Premier League meetings while scoring 25 goals and conceding just four.
The Hornets have only ever won one of their 15 previous visits to Anfield and have lost the last three 6-1, 5-0 and 5-0. No team in English top-flight history has ever beaten a single opponent by a five-goal margin or more in four consecutive home games.
Since the two sides first faced off in 1967 Liverpool have won 23 of the 32 meetings, and should they avoid defeat this weekend then it would equal their longest ever unbeaten streak against the Hornets.