01 February 2014

Liverpool at West Brom 02.02.14

8:30am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
4-1 Liverpool (h) 10.26.13
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

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 4-0 Everton (h); 2-0 Bournemouth (a); 2-2 Villa (h)
West Brom: 3-4 Villa (a); 1-1 Everton (h); 0-1 Southampton (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Suarez 23; Sturridge 13; Gerrard 6; Sterling 3; Coutinho, Skrtel 2; Agger, Flanagan, Henderson, Moses, Sakho 1
West Brom: Berahino 4; Long 3; Amalfitano, Anelka, Brunt, McAuley, Sessegnon 2; Anichebe, Lugano, Morrison, Mulumbu, Olsson. Ridgewell, Vydra, Yacob 1

Referee: Kevin Friend

Guess at a line-up:
Flanagan Skrtel Toure Cissokho
Coutinho Henderson
Sterling Suarez Sturridge

Allen's fit, but I'm not sure that means he'll come straight back into the XI after Tuesday's emphatic derby victory.

However, tomorrow's match will require very different tactics. Liverpool, even away from home, will find counter-attacking transition opportunities limited, will see the majority of the ball, will have to break down a determined, deep defense. That might argue for a steadier, more controlled passer of the ball, but I honestly don't know who Allen replaces if he comes back into the side. Liverpool's whirling dervish, speed racer front three seems set. Coutinho's guile and killer throughballs, married with the defensive effort shown against Everton, will be key in breaking down a rigid rearguard. When Gerrard's fit, Gerrard starts. Henderson remains the only outfield player to feature in every league match this season.

The last time these two teams met, Suarez was at his most masochistic: a 55-minute hat-trick punctuated by a tasmanian devil dribble and nutmeg, then an 18-yard header. That's one way to win. That's a good way to win, actually, against any type of defense. Let's do that again.

One thing West Brom won't do is play the high line which led to Everton's destruction with Liverpool's second, third, and fourth goals on Tuesday. Lugano and Olsson will do pretty much the opposite, playing as deep as possible, protected by both Yacob and Mulumbu. I worry about West Brom's set-up, knowing they kept a clean sheet in both wins over Liverpool last season, but the Baggies have held just one opponent scoreless since the beginning of November, with a single clean sheet in the last 14 matches. Incidentally, that was also West Brom's only victory in the last 14 matches. That they gave up four goals in a helter skelter midweek loss to Aston Villa should provoke a response, should emphasize the need to be much, much more solid at the back, and should make life more difficult for Liverpool's attackers.

Pepe Mel has played 4-4-2 in both matches since becoming West Brom manager. That may change due to Anelka's injury; he was replaced by Amalfitano against Villa. But if West Brom stick with 4-4-2, it'll most likely be Foster; Reid, Lugano, Olsson, Ridgewell; Morrison, Mulumbu, Yacob, Brunt; Vydra, Anichebe, with Vydra, or possibly Berahino, as a direct replacement for Anelka. In contrast to Liverpool's ongoing casualties, Anelka and Sessegnon are West Brom's only absentees.

It's been a strange week: from the euphoric highs of the Merseyside derby to wrist-slitting when the transfer window slammed shut. Back to on-field business. Rodgers suggested that he was content with Liverpool's squad as is, that no incoming players would galvanize the current squad. We got that reaction on Tuesday, but that was a derby. This is West Brom, at West Brom: the kind of fixture that Liverpool's struggled in before, a fixture where Liverpool shit the bed last season. Tomorrow would be a good time to see more of that promised reaction.

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