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A visiting Liverpool side joint top of the Premier League will hardly have been high on David Wagner’s wish list for Huddersfield’s first game back after the international break – but the Terriers face exactly that prospect on Saturday afternoon.
Times are tough in Yorkshire. Wagner’s side are one of three yet to claim victory in the Premier League so far this season – but of their fellow winless rivals, Newcastle and Cardiff, Huddersfield have scored the least goals, posting a measly tally of just four in eight games.
A cruel start to the campaign has not helped, with Huddersfield facing Chelsea, Man City, Spurs and now Liverpool in their first nine games – but the former Championship play-off winners will certainly need to improve if they are to renew their Premier League membership for a third season.
Three of their four goals in the current campaign have come from defenders, while the team as a whole have managed only 20 shots on target all season – the lowest tally in the league.
Strikers Laurent Depoitre and Steve Mounie have often appeared starved of service while midfield maestro Aaron Mooy is yet to find his groove following an impressive debut season in the top tier last year.
Summer signings Adama Diakhaby, a £9m purchase from Monaco, and Isaac Mbenza, who arrived on loan from Montpellier, have had a tough time adapting to life in the Premier League, playing only sporadically with Rajiv Van La Parra and Elias Kachunga often preferred in the wide positions.
However, given Huddersfield’s stark lack of creativity so far this season, it can only be a matter of time until the duo are given time to demonstrate their worth; whether Wagner risks the pair against a Liverpool team who appear to have exorcised their defensive demons is another question.
The Reds look an entirely different prospect this year, arguably thanks to the arrivals of big-money signings Virgil Van Dijk and Allison Becker.
The duo appear to have been worth the cash, plugging holes in a once-porous defence that has been transformed into one of the most watertight in the league.
Only Manchester City have conceded as few goals as Liverpool, three, and following a goalless draw with title rivals City a fortnight ago, Jurgen Klopp’s men have now kept nine consecutive clean sheets at home.
But while the team have excelled in defence, their free-scoring forward line has looked a little short of form in recent weeks.
The famous Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane trio are currently riding a three-game goal drought with Egyptian superstar Salah appearing particularly out-of-sorts when compared to his prolific breakout campaign.
Three goals from his opening seven Premier League games could be considered a reasonable return on paper – but given the gluttony of chances Salah has spurned in that time, the 26-year-old will surely be a little disappointed with his tally so far.
A trip to the John Smith’s could be just the tonic to kick-start his campaign given the former Roma man scored on his last visit to the stadium – and a tasty run of fixtures awaits after Saturday’s showdown, providing further opportunity to make up ground on current top scorer Eden Hazard.
Huddersfield pair Philip Billing and Isaac Mbenza should be available after ankle and knee injuries respectively.
However, The Terriers will be without injured trio Tommy Smith, Terrence Kongolo and Danny Williams for the visiting Reds.
Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk endured injury scares on international duty but should feature having returned to full training on Thursday following groin and rib injuries respectively.
James Milner's hamstring problem will definitely rule him out while Sadio Mane, thumb, and Naby Keita, hamstring, are both doubts.
Huddersfield Town head coach David Wagner : "Now we have a great opportunity, a wonderful game in front of our fans against a very strong side, where we can hopefully perform at the same level (as our last game).
"Every performance gives you belief and every win gives you belief - unfortunately we have no wins so far - but we have performed at a good level consistently over the last weeks, and in training the guys look very good as well.
"Sometimes football writes some great stories and nobody knows what is going to happen on Saturday."
Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp on Huddersfield: “I watch them more because I want to see how David [Wagner] is doing.
“It’s a typical football thing – I heard a few people talking about Huddersfield: ‘Not good enough here, not good enough there, they have to score more.’ They had more possession against Tottenham than Tottenham. Not a lot of teams can say that about themselves. At Burnley they had more possession.
“They play proper football, they are difficult to catch. They play different systems. So far it was unlucky.
“This game is a trap, a 100 per cent trap.
“We are third with 20 points, they are pretty much bottom of the table. That’s why analysis is so important; if you only used the table to analyse a team, you would say ‘They don’t score a lot, they conceded a few and they are third from the bottom so obviously not a good football team.’ Then we’d have a big problem.
“But, thank God, we have a lot of people working on analysis, not only against PSG or whatever. That’s good, so we have all the information we need.”
The two teams have met only twice before in the Premier League era - and the head-to-head does not make for pretty reading for fans of the Terriers.
Previous two meetings:
|30/01/18||Premier League||Huddersfield 0-3 Liverpool||Can, Firmino, Salah (pen)|
|28/11/17||Premier League||Liverpool 3-0 Huddersfield||Sturridge, Firmino, Wijnaldum|
• Huddersfield lost both Premier League meetings 3-0 against Liverpool last season, in what where their first league meetings with the Reds since the 1971-72 campaign.
• Liverpool are unbeaten in 12 matches in all competitions against Huddersfield (W9 D3 L0) and haven’t conceded a single goal in any of their last seven against the Terriers.
• Huddersfield managed just one shot on target across their two Premier League games against Liverpool last season, and only six shots in total.
• Huddersfield have failed to score in any of their four Premier League home games this season – only Everton in 1998-99 have failed to score in any of their first five at home at the start of a Premier League campaign.
• Huddersfield have failed to score in their last six home Premier League games – only Manchester City (8 in 2006-07) have ever had a longer such run in the competition.
• Under Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool have lost five of their nine away Premier League games against teams starting the day in the relegation zone (P9 W2 D2 L5) and won none of their last six (W0 D2 L4) since a 6-0 victory at Aston Villa in February 2016.
• Liverpool have lost just one of their last 16 Premier League games (W10 D5) and are unbeaten in their last nine (W7 D2 L0).
• Huddersfield have fired in a league-low 20 shots on target in the Premier League this season, while only Man City (16) have faced fewer shots on target than Liverpool (21).
• Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge has already hit more goals in nine appearances in all competitions this season (4), than he did in 20 last term for Liverpool and West Brom combined (3).
All odds correct with Bet365 at the time of writing