07 November 2008

Liverpool v West Brom 11.08.08

12:30pm, live in the US on FSC

Last 4 head-to-head:
2-0 Liverpool (a) 04.01.06
1-0 Liverpool (h) 12.31.05
5-0 Liverpool (a) 12.26.04
3-0 Liverpool (h) 09.11.04

Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 1-1 Atletico (h); 1-2 Tottenham (a); 1-0 Pompey (h)
West Brom: 2-2 Blackburn (h); 1-2 Newcastle (a); 0-3 Hull (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Torres 5; Kuyt 4; Gerrard 2; Alonso, Babel, Carragher, Riera 1
West Brom: Bednar 4; Miller, Morrison 2; Brunt, Olsson 1

Referee: Peter Walton

Guess at a squad:
Arbeloa Carragher Hyypia Dossena
Mascherano Alonso
Kuyt Gerrard Riera

For the third match in a row I’ll start by saying I hope to see Torres on the bench. Maybe he'll start, but after missing six matches, I'm not so sure. I’m glad he didn’t play on Tuesday if he didn’t feel ready to, but Liverpool has certainly needed his goals in the last two games.

It doesn’t help that neither Keane nor Kuyt is best used as a lone striker, unlike Torres. But the midfield’s been strong in the 4-2-3-1, and Alonso’s been superlative. I doubt Gerrard will be shifted to the right, which would keep both Masch and Alonso on the field. It’s definitely arguable whether Liverpool needs Mascherano against West Brom, and Gerrard paired with Alonso and Pennant or El Zhar on the right is a better option, but that seems less likely. Of course, I’ve been wrong before.

With the League Cup match against Spurs next week, I imagine we’ll see a fairly strong line-up, with most rested next Wednesday. My guessed changes are Dossena for Aurelio, as Rafa seems willing to rest the Brazilian in the hope of keeping him fit, and Hyypia for Agger. I doubt Agger needs to sit with a broken finger (which is worst-case scenario), but giving him a few days to recuperate shouldn’t hurt.

I’m also tempted to guess Babel over Riera, as the Dutchman could run at West Brom’s defense (which has the highest goals-against record in the league), while Riera’s looked tired in the last couple of matches. But again, I reckon that change will come on Wednesday.

Once again, Liverpool will face a former keeper in Scott Carson, sold over the summer for £3.25m. I hate when Liverpool faces former keepers.

West Brom started the season better than their league position would suggest. But they lost three straight following the most recent international break, before Blackburn drew level with an 89th minute goal last Saturday. Prior to the season I thought the Baggies were the most likely of the promoted sides to stay up. With Stoke 12th and Hull 6th, it shows what I know.

But, they have played some nice football at times. Having followed Liverpool for long enough, I know teams like that can haunt at Anfield. And Tony Mowbray has been an excellent manager; I’m hoping his preference for attacking football will keep Albion from parking the bus, but I’m not holding my breath either. At the least, I expect to see a very crowded midfield, which is probably an argument for Pennant-Gerrard-Alonso-Riera with Kuyt and Keane up top.

Past isn’t enough of a precedent to guarantee victory. Liverpool needs to respond well after losing to Spurs and a fortunate draw against Atletico. It’s not far from hyperbole to suggest every game in the Premiership is do-or-die.

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