Anfield has not been a happy hunting ground for Nordin Amrabat.
In 2008, he lost 3-1 at the famous old ground with PSV, battling alone up front for 90 minutes against the uncompromising pair of Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel.
Then, in May, Amrabat was a substitute when he probably should have started, eventually coming on to replace replacing a tiring Almen Abdi with 20 minutes go. He came on with Liverpool leading 1-0 but failed to prevent the home side from doubling their lead. Quique Sanchez Flores was so unhappy with his performance that he left him to stew on the bench for the next game, at Norwich City.
Yet Amrabat goes there this time certainly in the form of his Watford career and possibly his entire playing career. If the there was a vote for Watford’s player of the season so far then he’d be in with a decent shout. Sky Sports’ Charlie Nicholas has even included him in his team of the season so far.
“Some might be surprised to see Amrabat included,” Nicholas wrote. “But I’m not just looking at the top sides and I just think he gives great balance and energy to Watford, while he’s actually got good quality in the final third. I think he’s been a star buy.”
Since impressing as a wing-back in pre-season, Amrabat has featured in nine of Watford’s 10 Premier League games this campaign, starting seven. He only started in four of his 11 league appearances last season under Sanchez Flores. Sunday will be a test of just how far he has come.
Liverpool have scored a league-high 24 goals this season, joint with Manchester City, but the Hornets have now kept three clean sheets in their last three matches – two of them with a one-time forward in defence.
“Yes [we have been working more on defending],” Amrabat said. “We are having, every week, two or three meetings and the coach speaks a lot about defensive work. I think we see the wing backs need to come inside to help the centre backs. I think it works now and we’re happy. Now it will be a big test on Sunday to keep a clean sheet against Liverpool.”
Watford have won at Anfield just once in their history, and it was their first ever game in the Premier League. Tommy Mooney scored the only goal in a 1-0 win. Despite the odds being stacked against them, Amrabat remains positive that the Hornets can pull a special result out of the bag.
“Liverpool is a tough game but a nice game,” he said. “Maybe we do something that people don’t expect. Everybody looks forward to playing against Liverpool at Anfield. We have a lot of confidence and we are playing good. We look forward to this game. We will train hard this week for sure – the coach will prepare well. Hopefully we can surprise them.”