The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
April 2, 2011, 19:25 PM – LIVE! on ESPN
So Roy Hodgson has finally let the rabbit out of the hat by recently stating that being incumbent to the “Liverpool manager” post was not quite the walk in the park he had earlier imagined. The looming presence of the King never helped the chin-rubbing Hodgson; so he claims. Well, although Roy was commandeering the Liverpool battalion the last time these two teams met, the situation is not really different this time around. Liverpool are tracing back to their winning ways and have notched up 4 wins out of the last 6 games.
West Brom on the other hand are carving out a fine balancing act on the relegation rope. Sitting just one point above the relegation zone with 33 points leaves Hodgson in muddy waters again. And although the fans would expect him to pull off another heroic act by saving West Brom from relegation just as he did with Fulham, the facts point to a bleak possibility of such a manifestation. Since Roy took over, West Brom have won just 1 game and drawn 4 and this doesn’t really help their cause. Looks like summer arrived a little early for the Roy and the Baggies.
Liverpool had to fight hard to earn their three points against West Brom in the reverse fixture last year. Their new found team spirit is no secret and the confidence that Dalglish has weaved into the team always reflects on the pitch. Hence, it’s just logical to believe that it is going to be hard for West Brom this time around to drive a nail into Liverpool’s season-ending ambitions.
Team News and Tactical Brief
West Bromwich Albion
Although the Baggies could boast of a formidable midfield with the presence of Brunt, Morrison, Jerome Thomas and Steven Reid, it is their defence that is a little shaky. West Brom has let in more goals than any other team in the league so far this season (56) and this is surely a cause for concern. Kenny Dalglish has the inventory to add salt to this injury in the form of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll. Both signings have heralded the arrival of good times for the club and facing West Brom is an opportunity they would relish.
The Baggies’ defence continues sans Pablo Ibanez who has suffered a long-term hamstring injury. Another sting comes from the injury of Graham Dorrans who is still out with an ankle injury and hence will not play any part in the fixture. Dorrans has been an influential player for West Brom this season and his preclusion will surely hurt the squad. But Hodgson’s worries do not end here. Carlos Vela just pulled off an “Around the World” following his 12000 mile trip on international duty and the Gaffer is not happy with the Mexican National team. On the brighter side of things, Peter Odemwingie and Youssouf Mulumbu have returned from international duty injury free and are fit to face Liverpool.
The absence of these players surely trims the overall threat that West Brom could actually pose. Although their top scorer Peter Odemwingie is present in the squad, players like Carlos Vela and Graham Dorrans are considered value-adds and hence, West Brom will have to play out of their skins if they have to salvage any point from this fixture.
Probable Starting XI (4-4-1-1): Carson, Shorey, Scharner, Meite, Olsson, Reid, Thomas, Morrison, Brunt, Mulumbu, Odemwingie.
The Reds are finally managing to find their ground under Kenny Dalglish. The midfield looks strong, the attack force has been boosted by new signings and there have been defenders returning from injuries to again compete for a place in a team that had initially lost its way. Dalglish sure is trying to build a team that comprises of match winners but the plan is still in nascent stage and it is going to take some time before Liverpool can enter the “invincible” bracket. Due to this work-in-progress, the squad could just face some disorientation on the pitch for a reason unknown; just as it happened in the game against West Ham United earlier this year. The team had just secured a victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge but looked like mismatched pieces of a jigsaw in their game against the Hammers. This is the only flaw that West Brom should be hoping to exploit and if luck favours them, then it could be a tough day for Liverpool.
Dalglish – Remoulding Liverpool into who they ought to be
Regarding Liverpool’s injury concerns, Steven Gerrard has returned to full training following his groin injury but is yet to be declared match fit which means Kenny will have to take a late call on his inclusion. Also, the Reds were earlier given a scare when Luis Suarez also picked up a groin injury in the Sunderland fixture. This kept him out of international duty but the Uruguayan is now fit and is back in the squad. It is reported that Martin Kelly was close to a return but the right back suffered a setback in training which delays his return further.
The availability of Gerrard is any day a boost but going by the way the midfield has been performing without him this season, it could be safe to say that his absence shouldn’t really derail Liverpool from their path of resurgence. All that Liverpool need right now is to bring in that little bit of chemistry; and it is not long before that happens.
Probable Starting XI (4-4-2): Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Agger, Meireles, Spearing, Lucas, Kuyt, Suarez, Carroll.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Scott Carson (West Bromwich Albion): He knows what Liverpool is all about. He is well aware of how the Reds like to play their football and being a former Red, he surely knows how it feels to be a goalkeeping for the opposition. The presence of Suarez and Carroll is nothing but a bigger threat for Carson. This game, for him, is going to be a true test of his goalkeeping abilities.
Carson – Quite literally, a big task on his hands
West Bromwich Albion 0 – 2 Liverpool FC