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Preview: West Brom [A]

Liverpool travel to West Brom on Sunday looking to pull further away from the rest of the pack; but they travel to a ground where they have not won on for five years.

Jurgen Klopp named a surprising side for the trip to Stoke last Saturday – and it appeared to be backfiring at half-time as the Reds went 1-0 down.

But the introduction of Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge put the visitors in complete control of the match; and they duly turned it around to win 2-1 thanks to strikes from the Brazilian duo.

However, they may have left the bet365 Stadium with only a point to show for their second half domination when Saido Berahino’s effort was thwarted by a magnificent close-range save by Simon Mignolet. The Belgian also made other vital saves to ensure Champions League qualification was well in Liverpool’s hands.

West Brom, meanwhile – were a side tipped by many to endure a unspectacular mid-table finish. But with a fine home record this term, followed by the physical prowess & defensive organisation they possess under Tony Pulis, they are currently in a very laudable 8th place.

The Baggies have not been in the best of form in recent weeks, though. They’ve only won once in their last five league outings; that was a 3-1 home win against Arsenal on 18 March. Having endured back-to-back defeats against Watford and Southampton, Tony Pulis will be lookng to maintain his impressive record against Liverpool.

The Welsh manager has never been beaten by the Reds in nine attempts at home. Therefore, a win would surely divulge to the rest of the league how the visitors have finally put those unwanted demons to bed in their quest for top 4.

Injury News

 

  • Jordan Henderson & Adam Lallana still not fit for Sunday’s clash, confirmed Jurgen Klopp in his pre-match press conference. However, the German hopes to have them fit by the end of the month.

Predicted Starting XI

Klopp set up in what looked like a 3-5-2 against Stoke City in the second half.

The problems with it in the first half was that Clyne was unfamiliarly overlapping the left hand side – so it was no surprise to see how he struggled there. The defence was also a problem as Klavan and Matip struggled with high balls over the top. A back three of Matip, Can & Clyne probably would’ve been the better option.

Another problem in the first half was that 17-year old Ben Woodburn wasn’t getting enough support from his strike partner Divock Origi or any of the overlapping players whatsoever. So he brought on three game changers in Coutinho, Firmino and Sturridge which paid dividends.

Obviously the unfamiliar starting XI lies with a mitigating lack of squad depth in the side. The lack of in form strikers to cover for the likes of Firmino put a lot of pressure on the shoulders of Ben Woodburn – and Alexander-Arnold. I really don’t think we can afford a similar weakened lineup next year. The problems clearly lie with defensive personnel and contingency options going forward.

Rant aside, here’s the side I’d expect to start at the bet365 Stadium – a similar one to the second half.

Of course, I don’t want the defence shown above or Milner in the midfield – but I think he’s more likely to persist with what he saw in the second half last Saturday.

Prediction

I’m not feeling particularly confident for this – a ground where we haven’t won since 2011. West Brom have everything which we struggle to play against – physical presence all over the pitch, a well organised defence etc. Sturridge in attack and the midfield leaves me worrying about the lack of mobility in our side.

If we go for a 3-5-2 against West Brom, it would be exploited by the hosts. Pulis would’ve surely identified how weak our back three were with balls over the top – so he’d get his physical players such as Rondon to really bother the likes of Lovren and Klavan. A physical, ball playing CB must be the target for next term if we are to come to these kinds of grounds and win.

But let’s not forget the lack of goals the Baggies have scored this season. 32 goals all term isn’t particularly impressive, and that’s why we really need the magic of Coutinho and the tactical intelligence of Coutinho here.

A draw here wouldn’t be a disaster – but a win would really put us in pole position. It’s ours to lose now.

Verdict: West Brom 2-2 Liverpool

Last 3 Meetings

Liverpool 2-1 West Brom, 22 October 2016 (Anfield)

Liverpool were well in the frame for the title; even this early on in the campaign. Back then it looked like a four horse race between Liverpool, Man City, Spurs & Arsenal. The Reds knew a win by two clear goals would put them top of the Premier League and leapfrog the Gunners.

They got off to a flying start – Sadio Mane & Philippe Coutinho drove home to leave the hosts on course to become table-toppers for the weekend.

But James McAuley did make it a tense finale when he headed home from a set-piece. Nevertheless, Klopp’s side held their nerve to move 2nd in the table, only behind Arsenal o goal difference.

2: West Brom 1-1 Liverpool, 15 May 2016 (The Hawthorns)

Three days before the Europa League Final in Basel, the Reds travelled to the Hawthorns on the final day of the Premier League season.

Unsurprisingly, a second string side was named. And the visitors got off to a slow start when goalkeeper Adam Bodgan fumbled a seemingly easy save from Salomon Rondon’s low drive.

Jordon Ibe spared the blushes of the Hungarian though with a fine individual solo goal to ensure 8th place for Liverpool.

1: Liverpool 2-2 West Brom, 13 December 2015 (Anfield)

Liverpool were in 7th place by the time West Brom came to Anfield in December 2015 – winning seven of their previous eight games.

They made a perfect start when Jordan Henderson applied a fine driven finish to what was a superb, sweeping passing move.

But it was a lead Klopp’s side held for precisely nine minutes.

Simon Mignolet’s error gifted Craig Dawson an equaliser, and the Baggies may consider themselves unfortunate to have had a goal disallowed by the offside flag.

However, it looked meaningless in the context of the game when Jonas Olsson prodded in from a corner to put the visitors in front.

Divock Origi rescued the Reds with a long range deflected effort deep in stoppage time.
Written by @SteLindellLFC

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