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Last four head-to-head:
0-0 (a) 04.25.15
2-1 Liverpool (h) 10.04.14
1-1 (a) 02.02.14
4-1 Liverpool (h) 10.26.13
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-0 Sion (a); 0-2 Newcastle (a); 6-1 Southampton (a)
West Brom: 1-1 Tottenham (h); 1-1 West Ham (a); 2-1 Arsenal (h)
Liverpool: Coutinho 5; Benteke 4; Ings, Milner, Sturridge 2; Firmino, Skrtel 1
West Brom: Berahino, Morrison, Rondon 3; Dawson, Lambert, McClean 1
Referee: Craig Pawson
Guess at a line-up:
Clyne Skrtel Lovren Moreno
Lallana Coutinho Ibe
If both Henderson and Coutinho are available to start, this is as close to a full-strength XI as Klopp has been able to name. There's only the small matter of Sturridge's continued absence and Benteke's suitability for Klopp's preferred style.
If Henderson's unavailable – which wouldn't be a huge surprise given he played almost the entire match in Sion – it should be either Lucas or Milner in the same formation. If Coutinho's unavailable, it's a bit more worrisome, and could lead to another outing for Benteke, Firmino, and Ibe in attack. An attack that's come nowhere near firing, nowhere near impressing. Given his struggles in his last three appearances, I doubt Firmino will play unless Coutinho, Ibe, and Henderson are all unable to start, and rightfully so. At the moment, it seems he should be limited to substitute appearances and/or in a front three with Coutinho and Lallana, seemingly better suited to playing away from home, as against Manchester City.
Maybe Ibe's still ill; Milner would probably start instead, whether in a 4-3-2-1 or the above 4-2-3-1. Maybe Liverpool go with two up front, most likely with a diamond midfield, whether it's Benteke and Origi or Benteke and Firmino, in an attempt to better take the game to West Brom's inevitably deep defense.
Whatever formation, whatever lineup that Klopp chooses, we need to see much, much more from Liverpool's attack. And Liverpool will have the chance to attack, because Liverpool are facing a Tony Pulis side at Anfield. Liverpool will monopolize the ball, Liverpool will have to breakthrough 10 men in West Brom's defensive third, Liverpool will have to actually create chances against the fully-parked, on-cinder-blocks bus.
Tony Pulis is Tony Pulis is Tony Pulis. And West Brom have been quite Tony Pulis lately.
The Baggies are unbeaten in three, taking points off of sides ahead of them in the table: a 2-1 win over Arsenal and 1-1 draws against Tottenham and West Ham. They've scored at least once in six of the last seven games, the only exception at Manchester United, hardly anyone scores. Even Manchester United.
West Brom's equalizers against Tottenham and West Ham both came from quick moves down the right flank, crosses leading to McClean's header and Reid's own goal from Lambert's deflected shot. Against Arsenal, the equalizer came from a free kick, the winner from an own goal after a quick counter down the left. Counter-attacks, crosses, and set plays. So very Tony Pulis.
But West Brom have also kept only two clean sheets in the last 10 matches: 1-0 wins against Sunderland and Norwich. Which is not very Tony Pulis at all.
Sessegnon's hamstring injury will be a major concern; he's started West Brom's last seven matches after missing the first two months of the season. And I'm not quite sure how Pulis will replace him. My suspicion, because Tony Pulis, is they'll shift Gardner or Morrison out to the right, playing a deep, defensive 4-5-1 formation. Something like Myhill; Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Brunt; Morrison, Gardner, Yacob, Fletcher, McClean; Rondon.
But it could be Brunt moving up from left-back, with McClean moved to the opposite flank, with a back four featuring four center-backs. Which is also very Tony Pulis. It could be the above 4-5-1 with Callum McManaman replacing Sessegnon in a straight swap, which is slightly less Tony Pulis. Or it could be 4-4-2, with either Berahino or Lambert partnering Rondon, which is the least Tony Pulis option. 4-4-2 away from home? Ha.
That Liverpool have gone two matches without scoring, have scored just one goal – from the penalty spot – in the last 200 or so minutes of league football, and (as you may have heard) are playing a Tony Pulis side remains incredibly worrying. That Liverpool continue to struggle to score, that Liverpool have especially struggled to score at Anfield and against sides that Liverpool *should* beat remains incredibly worrying.
With Coutinho and Henderson returning (in theory), with Liverpool actually having a week between games following this fixture, with Liverpool two weeks away from the perpetually busy and perpetually frightening festive schedule – a slate of games which will go a long way in deciding where Liverpool finish this season – there's no time like the present to dismiss these demons.