After remaining unbeaten in three tricky games against London sides, the Baggies travel to the north west this weekend for a first game against Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
It will be interesting to see how Tony Pulis sets up against Klopp’s “gegenpressing”. While the tactic has produced results for Liverpool on the road, it hasn’t been too sparkling at Anfield. The Reds have only scored more than one goal on their own patch once in the Premier League all season, against Villa under Brendan Rodgers. Since Klopp’s much heralded arrival, Liverpool have lost only twice, including their last outing at St James’s Park, but they have scored more than once on only two occasions in the Premier League, although those were both impressive results at the home of last season’s top two.
Albion have similarly been more effective on their travels collecting 11 of their 19 points away from the Hawthorns. As per usual, expect Albion to concede possession and look to catch Liverpool on the break, and I imagine that the hosts will find it very difficult to penetrate the Baggies back line. At the time of writing, Liverpool have still to travel to FC Sion in the Europa League, so their state of mind, not to mention their physical condition, may well change before the weekend.
Albion’s record against Liverpool has improved in recent years. Having lost the first nine Premier League matches against Liverpool without scoring a goal, Albion then won for of the next six against the Reds including two wins at Anfield. The most recent of those was a 2-0 win in February 2013 and since then, Albion have lost both matches on Merseyside and drawn both games at the Hawthorns.
Last weekend’s match against Spurs left me partly satisfied yet frustrated. I was delighted to see Albion bounce back once more from going a goal behind, but the injury to Sessègnon just before half time was a massive blow. It needn’t have been as big, but Pulis’s decision to replace him with Craig Gardner left me angry and bemused. This is not (necessarily) a criticism of Gardner per se, but let’s face it, as committed and strong as Gardner is, he is not the most creative of players. I actually thought he did well in the second half, but I couldn’t help thinking what might have been if it were McManaman or Berahino in those promising positions that Gardner found himself in the second half. Albion were the better side in the second half and could, if not should, have won the game. A Spurs-supporting friend of mine described them as “hanging on” towards the end and, while that’s not quite the way I remember it, it is nonetheless an indication of how well Albion played. And yet, without a substitution in the second half and a frustrated Saido Berahino cutting a sad figure on the steps next to the dugout late on, I do feel that it was an opportunity missed.
Stéphane Sessègnon is unlikely to feature having picked up a hamstring injury against Spurs, and it will be interesting to see who Pulis brings in. Berahino has played out wide before, and he also has Callum McManaman and, dare I say it, Serge Gnabry to consider. Yacob is likely to return following his suspension which is likely to mean that Olsson will drop to the bench with Jonny Evans slotting back in at centre back.
Daniel Sturridge is once again sidelined just a week after his latest return and Jordan Ibe is also likely to miss out through illness. Phillipe Coutinho is also a doubt added to a lengthy injury list including Ings, Sakho, Flanagan and Gomez.
I’ve a sneaky feeling that Albion could nick this. Even since Klopp’s arrival, Liverpool have struggled to break sides down and it’s no surprise that their most impressive results have come on the road againat sides who will take the game to you. Albion won’t do that and, without the creative spark of Coutinho, Liverpool will find it difficult to break through. One set piece could be enough for the Baggies.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
25 Apr 2015 – Premier League
West Brom 0
Last meeting at Liverpool
4 Oct 2014 – Premier League
Liverpool 2 (Lallana, Henderson)
West Brom 1 (Berahino (pen))
11 Feb 2013 – Premier League
West Brom 2 (McAuley, Lukaku)
Albion’s Record against Liverpool
|Premier League Record|