Liverpool will take another huge step in securing their place in next season’s Champions League if they can overcome the tough challenge of West Bromwich Albion, as they make the trip to the Hawthorns on Sunday.
Aerial onslaught from a typically motivated Tony Pulis side awaits, but Liverpool will be extremely well positioned if they can come out with three points.
Match: West Bromwich Albion vs Liverpool
Venue: The Hawthorns
Date: Sunyay 16th April
Time: 13:30 BST
FORM – Reds inching ever closer, Baggies on the beach?
Despite being without a string of key players, which we’ll get to later, Liverpool appear to be slowly plodding towards Champions League qualification, although it’s by no means certain.
The 2-2 draw at home to Bournemouth was a bump in the road, but kept the Reds unbeaten before a second-half comeback secured a 2-1 win at Stoke City last Saturday, the Samba Boys Coutinho and Firmino coming off the bench and getting a goal each. Now unbeaten in six, Liverpool are in the driving seat.
Sitting third, the Reds will drop back to fourth if Manchester City win their game in hand. Manchester United are six points back, but have two games in hand so can draw level with Jurgen Klopp’s men. After Arsenal’s capitulation at Crystal Palace on Monday night (where have we heard that before?), the Gunners are nine points adrift but with only two games in hand.
The crucial thing is that Liverpool have got the points on the board, and many of their rivals have to face each other, so can’t pick up all the points possible. With six games left against lesser opposition, four wins and a draw should roughly secure a place back in Europe’s premier club competition next term.
West Brom sit eighth after a fantastic season under Pulis, and they’ll surely be a danger from set-pieces on Sunday, having scored a league high 18 this season.
However, since hitting the magic 40 point mark back in February, they’ve only taken four points from six games. The concern for Liverpool is that those points were a home win against Arsenal and an away draw against Manchester United, showing they can mix it with the big boys.
The Baggies did look fairly toothless last time out against Southampton, losing 1-0 at home to a Jordy Clasie goal. A similar result would be welcomed by Liverpool.
Ah yes, the team news. Mane, out for the season. That’s the big one, but Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana still not being back only adds insult to injury.
Klopp went five at the back last week to compensate, and it didn’t really work. However, Coutinho and Firmino should come back into the side to make it look a little prettier, likely at the expense of youngsters Woodburn and Alexander-Arnold.
West Brom were boosted by the returning Matt Phillips last week and their success this season has been aided in no short part by keeping a fairly small squad fit and injury free. That’s what they’ve done this week, with no injury troubles to worry about.
Predicted Liverpool XI: Mignolet; Clyne, Matip, Lovren, Klavan, Milner; Can, Wijnaldum; Coutinho, Firmino, Origi.
Predicted West Brom XI: Foster; Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Nyom; Livermore, Fletcher; Chadli, Morrison, Phillips; Rondon.
WHEN THEY LAST MET
It wasn’t one of the most memorable clashes of the season, but Liverpool put in a very impressive performance at home to the Baggies in the Autumn, goals from Mane and Coutinho firing them into a lead.
However, old problems came back with Gareth McAuley scoring from a corner to pull one back, leaving Liverpool holding on nervously, which they just about managed. 2-1.
PREDICTION: WEST BROM 2-2 LIVERPOOL
I’m not sure why I’m so sceptical about the Reds lately. I predicted draws against Everton and Bournemouth and was right once, and I think we may see a slip up on Sunday.
A draw may not be a terrible result depending on how Manchester United and Arsenal get on, and I think that’s what we’ll see, West Brom scoring one from a corner and another through Salomon Rondon ending his goal drought. Liverpool will do enough for a point though, maybe a first away goal for Gini Wijnaldum?