17 August 2012

Liverpool at West Brom 08.18.12

10am ET, live in the US on FSC

Last four head-to-head:
0-1 West Brom (h) 04.22.12
2-0 Liverpool (a) 10.29.11
1-2 West Brom (a) 04.02.11
1-0 Liverpool (h) 08.29.10

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 3-1 Leverkusen (h) [friendly]; 3-0 Gomel (h); 1-0 Gomel (a)
West Brom: 2-0 Nottingham Forest (a); 3-1 Walsall (a); 1-1 Sheffield Wednesday (a) [all friendlies]

Referee: Phil Dowd

Guess at a line-up:
Johnson Skrtel Agger Enrique
Lucas Henderson
Downing Gerrard Borini

The Premier League officially starts tomorrow. It seems like it's been ages since the last season ended and yet I can't believe the new season's here so soon. Time flies when you're gossiping about potential signings, I guess.

Whether or not Joe Allen plays seems the only possible deviation from the XI which beat Gomel 3-0 eight days ago.

Allen has only trained for a few days since his move thanks to the midweek internationals. Where he played 90 minutes for Wales. And that's after two weeks of Olympics matches for Great Britain. I'd be surprised if he started tomorrow, no matter how much Rodgers wants him in the team as soon as possible. But needs must, and Rodgers will want the player in the team as soon as possible, so I'm ready to be surprised.

If Allen doesn't start, that midfield place will be filled by either Henderson or Shelvey. Shelvey played there against Gomel and didn't disappoint, but did look almost every bit his age compared to the otherwise full-strength XI. Henderson, slightly more experienced, slightly fresher, seems the more logical choice, but your guess is as good as mine.

Otherwise, I expect Liverpool to continue with the 4-2-3-1 system we've seen in the last two matches. If Henderson's included ahead of Shelvey, both he and Gerrard might play ahead of Lucas, more a 4-1-4-1 than 4-2-3-1 style of 4-3-3, but I suspect the formation deployed against both Gomel and Leverkusen will continue to be the template. Liverpool's back five writes, itself, Lucas' inclusion writes itself, Gerrard should continue to play as an attacking midfielder, and Liverpool don't have many other options for the front three. Borini reportedly picked up a knock earlier in the week which kept him out of Italy's friendly against England, but should be available tomorrow. New signing Oussama Assaidi would be lucky to even make the bench. Liverpool announced the completion of his transfer in the last hour, just after 3pm British time, but he would have to have been registered with the Premier League by 10am today to be included in tomorrow's squad.

This is somewhat shameless self-promotion, but I participated in a Q&A with Kevin Koczwara of LFC Boston yesterday. In it, Kevin rightly pointed out that any improvement in Liverpool's league form will come from beating the likes of West Brom et al given Liverpool's usually decent performances against the league best but woeful disappointment after disappointment against the bottom half of the table.

Liverpool have lost two of the last four meetings against the Baggies, two of the three matches when Albion were managed by current England boss and ex-Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson. Now, West Brom are managed by Liverpool's ex-assistant manager, Steve Clarke. I'm sure that bodes well.

Clarke's first move has been to notably strengthen West Brom's front line, signing Markus Rosenberg from Werder Bremen and bringing in Chelsea's Lukaku on loan. They've also added Ben Foster on a permanent deal, winger Yassine El Ghanassay from Gent, and Argentinean holding midfielder Claudio Yacob. The Guardian's West Brom preview, most of the Baggies' preseason matches, and this Birmingham Mail interview with Clarke suggests Albion will play a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Foster in goal; Reid, Olsson, McAuley, and Ridgewell in defense; Mulumbu and Yacob as the deeper midfielders; Gera, Morrison, and Odemwingie as the attacking line of three; and either Long or Lukaku up front.

Morrison and Olsson picked up knocks during the midweek internationals, but both may be fit in time for tomorrow's match. Rosenberg is less likely to be available, while Graeme Dorrans is on leave because of a family illness. Peter Odemwingie has been the thorn in Liverpool's side in the two losses over the last two seasons, scoring the winner last April and winning both penalties in April 2011.

Prior to those two losses, Liverpool had beaten West Brom in 13 consecutive meetings dating back to 1985, by a combined score of 38-2, and hadn't lost to West Brom since 1981. That's the sort of form Liverpool needs to rediscover against the league's lesser lights. No time like the present to remedy that failing.


Anonymous said...

I found your blog yesterday after the Q&A. Wanted to say it is highly enjoyable so far.

You may want to update the title, I sent some friends here and the first comment they sent me (before reading the article) was "why are they talking about last year's West Brom match?" 08.18.12, not 08.18.11.

nate said...

Oof, hey thanks. Always dangerous when I use last season's previews as a template.