Liverpool are aiming to maintain their healthy lead at the top of the table when they play hosts to West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.
Following a rocky start to the campaign, Liverpool are finally starting to get back into their groove. Their recovery this season was initiated by a late win over Tottenham Hotspur, which helped them regain their place at the top of the table. It was followed by a thumping 7-0 victory over Crystal Palace last weekend, meaning they now have a healthy four-point lead over second-placed Leicester City.
However, there will be no room for error when the Reds take on West Bromwich Albion at Anfield on Sunday. They will be well aware of the fact that third-placed Manchester United have a game in hand which means the lead could potentially be reduced to just two points should the Red Devils win against Leicester City on Boxing Day.
On the other hand, West Brom started their tenure under new manager Sam Allardyce with a 3-0 defeat to Aston Villa last weekend. The loss meant the Baggies are still dawdling in the relegation zone, five points away from safety. They have secured only one victory in the entire season, with only Leeds United conceding more goals.
Liverpool do have a rather disappointing record against West Brom as far as their most recent meetings are concerned. They have won only three of their last ten meetings in all competitions, though most of the matches took place before the Reds’ majestic rise to prominence under Jurgen Klopp in recent years.
Either way, it appears unlikely that the visitors will be hoping for anything more than just a point, especially considering Liverpool’s excellent record at home. Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a look at their chances of causing an upset at Anfield this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Jurgen Klopp will be delighted to have an eight-day break heading into this game. It should give his side some much-needed breather, although the German should once again miss out on the services of key players like Thiago Alcantara, Virgil van Dijk, Diogo Jota and Joe Gomez due to long-term injuries.
The Liverpool boss made some interesting changes to the starting eleven in the game against Crystal Palace, notably starting with Naby Keita and Takumi Minamino. Although both the players impressed in the 7-0 win, it appears likely that they will be rotated out of the starting lineup this weekend, thus paving the way for Curtis Jones and Mohamed Salah to return to the side.
Salah should renew his attacking partnership alongside Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. The trio should hope to take full advantage of West Brom’s leaky defence that has conceded 29 goals in just 14 matches so far this season.
Jones, on the other hand, should replace Keita in the engine room. The youngster is expected to start alongside Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson in the middle of Liverpool’s 4-3-3 setup. Klopp does have alternatives in Keita and Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain should he look for more creativity in the middle of the park.
With West Brom likely to defend deep, the Liverpool defenders could position themselves a bit higher up the pitch. The two full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson, in particular, are expected to camp themselves in the opposition half, while Fabinho could also push forward, leaving Joel Matip to mop up potential long balls.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Fabinho, Robertson; Jones, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane
West Bromwich Albion
Sam Allardyce will have to deal with a few injury-related absentees heading into the game including Hal Robson-Kanu and Kyle Bartley while Sam Field lacks match fitness. In addition, Jake Livermore remains suspended after picking up a straight red against Aston Villa.
Fortunately for the ex-West Ham United coach, however, key attacker Matheus Pereira is back from suspension. The Brazilian should replace Grady Diangana in the wider attacking position alongside Matt Phillips as Allardyce returns to a more conventional 4-3-3 formation. It should see Karlan Grant once again spearheading the West Brom attack, though they do have alternatives in Callum Robinson and Charlie Austin.
The Baggies had attempted only one shot on target against Aston Villa. It is a worrying stat, and the team desperately needs more creativity in the middle of the park. Fortunately, Livermore’s suspension should serve as an opportunity for the more attack-minded Filip Krovinovic to receive a berth in the starting eleven this weekend.
The Croat should form the West Brom midfield alongside Conor Gallagher, with Romaine Sawyers operating from the base. The 29-year-old will be tasked with the responsibility of screening the backline consisting of the same four players that started in the last game.
Although Branislav Ivanovic provides Allardyce with an experienced option at the back, the Englishman is likely to persist with Dara O’Shea and Semi Ajayi’s duo at the heart of the West Brom defence. These two should receive additional support from the two full-backs in Darnell Furlong and Kieran Gibbs as they look to cover Sam Johnstone in goal.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Johnstone; Furlong, Ajayi, O’Shea, Gibbs; Krovinovic, Sawyers, Gallagher; Pereira, Grant, Phillips
1. Roberto Firmino to score anytime @ 2.00
1. Over 4.5 Match Goals @ 3.20
- After winning 10 of their first 11 Premier League meetings with West Bromwich Albion by an aggregate score of 28-2, Liverpool have won just four of their last 13 against the Baggies.
- All four of West Brom’s Premier League victories against Liverpool came in a five-game spell between April 2011 and February 2013, with Roy Hodgson and Steve Clarke in charge of the Baggies for two wins each.
- In their last 10 league meetings with West Brom, Liverpool are unbeaten, though six of these have ended level. The Reds have also won all 14 of their Premier League home games against promoted sides under Jurgen Klopp, scoring 41 goals and conceding just seven.
- West Bromwich Albion have lost 29 of their last 34 top-flight matches against the reigning champions, losing 83% of their Premier League games against such sides.
- This will be West Brom’s 18th Premier League match against a side starting the day top of the table, with their only win in their previous 17 coming against Chelsea in May 2015, who had already been crowned champions.
Player to Watch
One of the major positives for Liverpool over the past couple of weeks is the return to form of their star striker Roberto Firmino. Often panned by fans and experts alike for his lack of productivity, the Brazilian has really found his scoring touch recently. He notably scored the late winner against Tottenham and followed it up with a brace against Crystal Palace in the 7-0 win.
This weekend, Firmino will have the opportunity to continue his scoring tally against a West Brom side who have struggled for the most part of the campaign. The ex-Hoffenheim forward already has five league goals to his name, so it will be interesting to see whether he can extend on that record and take advantage of the absence of Jota.
From a tactical perspective, Firmino has the positional sense as well as the work-rate that could be crucial for Liverpool in breaking down the deep defensive line of their opposition. So the Brazilian international is a reasonable bet this weekend.
Liverpool 2-0 West Bromwich Albion
Liverpool have an unbeatable record at home in the Premier League under Klopp, and that is unlikely to change any time soon. The Reds are looking like the best team in England once again, which was clearly evident in their last win. So it remains unlikely that a struggling West Brom side will be able to make any difference, despite the change of leadership.