In what has been a very disappointing season, last Sunday`s defeat to Villa in the FA Cup turned out to be the lowest point for Liverpool.
The Reds are back in action in the Premier League, where they take on The Baggies and will look to restore some pride.
According to Brendan Rodgers, a top four finish and a piece of silverware was Liverpool`s objective this season . Two semi-final losses in domestic cup competitions and a disappointing run in Europe compounded Liverpool`s misery. The ‘dream final’ send-off for Steven Gerrard went up in smoke, and unless something dramatically happens, the Reds are set to miss out on the top four as well. The game against West Bromwich Albion will be seen as the start of the countdown to their skipper Gerrard`s farewell, and they would like to make amends for last week`s disaster with a win against Tony Pulis` men, who are tough to beat at home.
Team news and tactics
West Bromwich Albion
Tony Pulis has once again proved his reputation of saving teams from the drop. He did it at Stoke City, Crystal Palace and is now plying his trade at West Bromwich Albion. After a disastrous start to the season under Alan Irvine, Pulis came into the club and has steadied the ship. They finished February unbeaten, and are currently 15th in the Premier League Table. Pulis` men have more or less secured their top flight status, but they will be keen to atleast get three or four points from their last five fixtures as they play four of the top five from now till the end of the season.
Pulis will be more than happy to play the same side which won 2-0 against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. He will be without the services of suspended Yousuff Mulumbu and the ineligible Andre Wisdom. Craig Dawson will also miss out due to injury and West Brom would once again deploy the 4-4-2 formation, which works out so well for them. The likes of McManaman and Berahino will be encouraged to get at the Liverpool defence and the outcome of the game would depend on these two and West Brom`s central midfield. Liverpool`s mindset is so fragile at the moment, and Pulis, being the shrewd person that he is, will take full advantage of the situation.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-4-2): Myhill(Gk); Lescott, McAuley, Olsson, Brunt; Gardner, Fletcher, Morrison, McManaman; Anichebe, Berahino;
Brendan Rodgers has found some excuses for Liverpool`s disappointing performances this season and last week`s excuse was a situation where ‘the occasion got the better of them’. The game at The Hawthorns may not be such a grand occasion, but a win is needed for the Reds to stay in contention for an improbable top four finish. Therefore, anything but a win would be seen as a failure and an occasion for another one of Brendan Rodgers` excuses.
Almost the whole team, barring Coutinho and Mignolet, were clueless against Villa and only the duo would deserve to be in the starting eleven at West Brom. Steven Gerrard looked helpless in midfield and Jordan Henderson was ineffective on the right side of midfield. Rodgers mixed things up in the semi-final by switching from a three man defence to a four man defence, which turned out to be nothing short of a disaster.
The return of Jordan Ibe should encourage Rodgers to play with a 3-4-3 formation, with the youngster providing the much needed energy on the right flank. Lucas is still out, which means it might be one of Allen or Gerrard partnering Henderson in central midfield. It would be interesting to see if Balotelli gets a chance to play upfront, but from what we have seen this season, the Italian would be thrust into the final 20 minutes and expected to perform wonders on the pitch. So, it will most probably be Sterling playing through the middle against McAuley and Olsson, with Coutinho and Markovic partnering him on either side. Lallana and Sturridge are ruled out of this game, and the bench looks limited.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-4-3): Mignolet(Gk); Lovren, Skrtel, Can; Moreno, Henderson, Allen, Ibe; Coutinho, Sterling, Markovic;
- Tony Pulis has never lost a home game to Liverpool in the Premier League.
- Gerrard might make is 500th appearance for Liverpool in the Premier League. Only Carragher (508 appearances) has more.
- Saido Berahino has scored 15 of his 18 goals in all competitions at home this season.
Player to watch out for
The Brazilian has been one of the bright spots this season and would undoubtedly be the player to watch out for in this game. His intricate passing and most importantly, his finishing is getting better by the day. He only has 4 goals to his name in the Premiership and would like to improve his goal tally. He is at his devastating best when he is offered a free role as part of the front three and the West Brom defenders would be wary of the former Inter man if he is played in his favoured role.
Prediction and Odds
West Brom vs Liverpool is available for betting on Sportpesa.com
West Brom: 3.84