Liverpool v West Brom: Key Battles
For all that was said about Jose Mourinho and Manchester United for their tactics on Monday, Liverpool played nowhere near as well as they could have and shown us this season. But for the Reds, it is time to put the game behind them and concentrate on the next Premier League game as we welcome West Bromwich Albion to Anfield on Saturday.
Adam Lallana will probably start after only coming on from the bench against United and Gini Wijnaldum could be back after training with the team on Wednesday. Those are massive boosts for the Reds as the two were sorely missed against United especially in the first half.
Here are some individual face-offs that will be pivotal against West Brom.
Adam Lallana v Claudio Yacob
The no. 20 was badly missed in the first half against United and his importance to this Liverpool side showed with the instant improvement the overall performance saw once he came on. His ability to drift out of tight spaces and keep the ball moving make him a very important cog in Jurgen Klopp’s wheel. With Daniel Sturridge turning in a disappointing performance on Monday, it is very likely that he will be the one to be replaced by Lallana. It would also be a massive fillip to the high pressing and intensity that Klopp demands from his midfield. Yacob is unspectacular, but he is steady and will harass Lallana all game, trying to coax a mistake out of the Liverpool man. For West Brom, Yacob will be crucial as Liverpool will start the game with a high intensity, especially as Klopp will look for the team to redeem itself after what was, in truth, a below par performance against United. Lallana will no doubt be the catalyst for the press and as he has shown this season, there is now more to his game than just the pressing and intensity.
Philippe Coutinho v Craig Dawson
Coutinho was one of our better players on Monday night, but he was shackled by the lack of space afforded to him by United. With Lallana back, he is likely to slot back into the left-sided attacking role that he has played in most under Klopp. Dawson, like Yacob, like most Tony Pulis teams, is not very flashy but he goes about his business steadily. Coutinho is capable of the spectacular though, as he showed on Monday night, only to be thwarted by the magnificent David De Gea. On Saturday, the situation will not be much different as the like of Darren Fletcher and Yacob will stay in front of the back four and try to minimize the space that Liverpool’s attackers have. For Coutinho, his role will be to bring Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane into the game as much as possible. For Liverpool when they have played well, the biggest asset has been the attackers rotating positions and making themselves impossible to mark. For Coutinho, it will be about drifting in between the midfield and defense, but he can be rest assured that that space will not be too big. The tie could be decided with this battle as Philippe Coutinho is in the form of his life and was a whisker away from giving Liverpool the win against United on Monday, although Liverpool are favourites according to Smartbets who have the best Liverpool odds for Saturday’s game.
Jordan Henderson v Nacer Chadli
Chadli has been a very shrewd signing for Pulis and has already made his presence felt with a few crucial goals for West Brom. He has been playing behind Salomon Rondon and has been critical in getting West Brom the goals they so badly lacked before his arrival. Henderson has had a good season so far but there are still question marks over his passing and ball retention when put under pressure. That will be Chadli’s role. As Liverpool’s deepest midfielder, Henderson will be the starting point for most attacks and Chadli’s role will be to ensure that Liverpool’s captain is put under pressure and pushed to making mistakes. Defensively, Henderson’s job is to ensure that he tracks Chadli’s runs into the box and to not allow the Belgian space in and around the box as he has a powerful shot in his locker that could trouble the goalkeeper.
Joel Matip v Salomon Rondon
Like last season, Rondon is against West Brom’s main source of goals. This season, the Venezuelan has had little bit of the pressure taken of him by Chadli but he is still Pulis’s main weapon. He is strong, keeps the ball well and is very good aerially. He is not a slouch either. But Matip has been imperious in recent games. He has effectively shackled the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Diego Costa. Rondon too will pose a similar threat but the Cameroon international is well-equipped and must only ensure that there are no lapses in concentration as Liverpool look to take the three points that they should be, especially with the game at Anfield.