26 January 2018

Liverpool v West Brom 01.27.18

2:45pm ET, live in the US on Fox Sports 2

Last four head-to-head:
0-0 (h) 12.13.17
1-0 Liverpool (a) 04.16.17
2-1 Liverpool (h) 10.22.16
1-1 (a) 05.15.16

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-1 Swansea (a); 4-3 City (h); 2-1 Everton (h)
West Brom: 1-1 Everton (a); 2-0 Brighton (h); 2-0 Exeter (a)

Goalscorers (all):
Liverpool: Salah 24; Firmino 17; Coutinho 12; Mané 9; Can, Oxlade-Chamberlain 4; Alexander-Arnold, Sturridge 3; Henderson, Klavan, Lovren, Matip, Milner, van Dijk, Wijnaldum 1
West Brom: Rodriguez 6; Rondon 5; Evans, Phillips, Robson-Kanu 2; Barry, Chadli, Dawson, Field, Hegazi, McClean, Morrison, Yacob 1

Referee: Craig Pawson (LFC History) (WhoScored)

Guess at a line-up:
Trent A-A Lovren van Dijk Moreno
Wijnaldum Henderson Milner
Salah Ings Mané

We're back to the rotation guessing game.

It's the FA Cup, and while Liverpool have had five days since the last match – and eight before the previous, and nine before that – there's a league match at Huddersfield on Tuesday, and the Champions League restarting in mid-February. We're not a full fixture congestion, like at this time last season, like a month ago, but we're getting closer.

It will, of course, be a stronger XI than in previous 4th-round FA Cup ties. There has been a bit of rest, and despite injuries and sales, it's still a deeper squad than seasons' past. But there will be rotation, and your guess is as good as mine as to most of the XI. Or what formation they'll play in.

Mignolet will start in goal. Alexander-Arnold will come in at right-back. Klavan remains ill, and Matip seems to need rest more than others, so it's probably Lovren and van Dijk at center-back. Moreno's back in training, so it's 50-50 whether it's him or Robertson at left-back; one will start tomorrow, the other on Tuesday.

Can's played a ton of games lately, so I assume he's out. Henderson's back, so I assume he starts. Lallana's injured again (sigh), so there's one less option for rotation. Milner missed a day of training with a dead leg, but he's still Milner. Pick two from Wijnaldum, Milner, and Oxlade-Chamberlain to go along with Henderson, I guess. But that's assuming we'll see 4-3-3.

And then there's up front. Let's rest Firmino, because why not. That means Ings or Solanke as the central striker, and Ings was preferred off the bench on Monday. Salah and Mané should be fit enough to play both tomorrow and Tuesday – and Liverpool often need them – but Oxlade-Chamberlain's an option here as well, and, hell, maybe Ben Woodburn is too.

But maybe it'll be Ings and Sturridge or Solanke or Firmino or Salah up front, with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mané wide and two of the aforementioned midfielders and a 4-4-2 formation instead of 4-3-3.

So, yeah, *shrugs*. Guessing the XI in domestic cup competition remains both annoying and futile.

Meanwhile, West Brom have finally won under Alan Pardew. Hurrah? His first two wins came in the two games before their last, followed by a 1-1 draw at Everton which saw the home side booed off the pitch. They're getting better, and they were already frustrating a month ago. That bodes somewhat poorly.

I've little idea whether West Brom will rotate as well. The FA Cup is a bonus; they need league points and they need them now. And they've got a league match on Wednesday rather than Tuesday, but it's also at Manchester City. A match where they're not likely to take points no matter who's rested and available.

Morrison and Chadli are out injured, and a few West Brom players have had the flu this week – McClean, Rodriguez, Foster, Field, Hegazi, and McAuley were mentioned in today's press conference – but Pardew was unsurprisingly coy as to whether any will miss time.

So maybe it's full-strength tomorrow. Which would probably mean Foster; Dawson, Hegazi, Evans, Gibbs; Phillips, Livermore, Krychowiak, McClean; Rodriguez, Rondon. Barry and Yacob are options in midfield. Brunt can play on either flank. Robson-Kanu could start for either striker up front, McAuley could start for either center-back in defense. Field could play at left-back, Nyom could play at right-back.

Hopefully, this won't entirely be like last month's league meeting. West Brom will assuredly defend, and deep, but they'll want a replay almost as little as Liverpool. It shouldn't vie for the most-defensive performance Liverpool have seen this season, as in the last last meeting, which was as frustrating as Everton in the league or *gulp* Swansea last Monday.

And as with Everton, the FA Cup at least provides a chance to avenge a disappointing home league draw. The FA Cup remains gravy for Liverpool; it's the league and top four which matters most, closely followed by the Champions League. But it's still a trophy. One which Liverpool are better placed to compete for than in Klopp's first two seasons. And Liverpool should have vengeance on their minds. Vengeance for the result against the same opponents in December, and vengeance for the performance we saw on Monday.

Make someone pay.

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