25 October 2013

Liverpool v West Brom 10.26.13

10am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports Live Extra

Last four head-to-head:
0-2 West Brom (h) 02.11.13
2-1 Liverpool (a; League Cup) 09.26.12
0-3 West Brom (a) 08.18.12
0-1 West Brom (h) 04.22.12

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-2 Newcastle (a); 3-1 Palace (h); 3-1 Sunderland (a)
West Brom: 0-0 Stoke (a); 1-1 Arsenal (h); 2-1 United (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Sturridge 7; Suarez 3; Gerrard 2; Moses 1
West Brom: Amalfitano 2; Berahino, McAuley, Ridgewell, Sessegnon, Yacob 1

Referee: Jon Moss

Guess at a line-up:
Toure Sakho Agger
Johnson Gerrard Lucas Cissokho
Luis Alberto
Sturridge Suarez

Coutinho and Enrique are still out, but Lucas should return, most likely at the expense of Henderson.

I also assume that Liverpool will persist with three at the back. Which seems understandable; it's helped at both ends of the pitch, even if there have been huge, terrifying gaps between midfield and attack and midfield and defense. That West Brom will almost certainly play with a lone striker, a deep-sitting 4-4-1-1/4-2-3-1 formation, is another argument against the 3-4-1-2, but this formation has been the best way to highlight Liverpool's strengths: Sturridge and Suarez up top, four capable center-backs, Johnson and Enrique/Cissokho as shuttling wing-backs.

I have two requests, though.

1) Can we please have Agger? This is no slight on Skrtel, who's done quite well this season – Liverpool's goals conceded last weekend not withstanding. But Liverpool desperately need the ball-playing skills that Agger can provide, especially against a side that's going to sit deep, and Skrtel seems the most likely to make way.

2) Please no Moses again. I'd be happy with either Henderson or Luis Alberto in the hole instead, the former more able to drop into midfield and press from the front, the latter a clever attacker, far more patient, cool, and composed on the ball. Luis Alberto seems the most promising, especially after his cameo against Newcastle: another passer hopefully making Liverpool better able to carve open a sardine-packed defense. Allen's return is also welcomed, although I highly doubt he'll start, as he's another who can pass around and through the inevitable tight spaces.

It's also possible that we see Johnson at left-back with Henderson on the right – Johnson filled that role well last season, Henderson filled it well in Johnson's absence over the last few weeks – but I expect Rodgers will give the on-loan Cissokho another chance.

If Liverpool have scored in a match this season, then Sturridge has scored in a match this season, with seven goals from the first eight league games, nine goals from the ten in all competitions. With Suarez back, Liverpool aren't wholly reliant on Sturridge's strikes, but they're still fairly reliant. And if the past is any precedent, he'll be much needed tomorrow, with Jonas Olsson frequently coming out on top of his battles with Luis Suarez in recent seasons.

Steve Clarke's stingy, resilient West Brom are unbeaten in five, with wins over United and Sunderland, and draws against Stoke, Arsenal, and Fulham. You may also remember West Brom doing the double over Liverpool last season, by a combined 5-0 scoreline. Two dismissals, a ludicrous set play volley after Liverpool failed to clear the initial danger, a penalty, and a nail-in-the-coffin on the counter at the Hawthorns. A header from a corner and counter-attack second in the final ten minutes at Anfield after Liverpool spent 80 minutes spurning chances. A microcosm of everything bad that's happened under Brendan Rodgers.

Clarke's used a settled XI, with only one or two changes possible from last week's starters. It'll be Myhill in goal; Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell in defense; Mulumbu and Yacob as the holding midfielders; Amalfitano on the right flank; and Sessegnon in the hole. Berahino has started on the left in Scott Sinclair's absence, but the latter may finally be fit from a hamstring injury tomorrow. The main striker could be Anelka, Long, or Anichebe. All three are proficient in the spearhead role: holding up play, aerially capable, working the channels to pull defenders out of position.

West Brom are built for counters and set plays. Liverpool are often negligent on counters and set plays, no matter personnel or formation.

Southampton have become Liverpool's bogey side with high pressing and quick passing. West Brom were, at least last season, with deep, physical defense and a brutally quick counter-attack. Without both Odemwingie and Lukaku, two who tormented Liverpool last season, that counter-attack may be less brutal, but Liverpool will still need to rectify some of this season and last's wrongs if they're to take all three much-needed points tomorrow.

1 comment :

Vercingetora said...

My God, it took me nearly an hour just to find out if I have NBC Sports Live Extra on Directv! Why must everything be so complicated?

This is a huge match with Arsenal away on the horizon. It's nice Rodgers has so many options available both as to shape and personnel. Now that we have Lucas and Johnson back, I'm hoping we have a more attacking shape and lineup. Sorry, 4-5-2, you served your purpose in a time of need; time to go now.