Premier League 17/18 Week 35: West Bromwich Albion vs Liverpool – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
The bouncing Baggies invite a Liverpool side preparing for Europe as their latest potential scalp in a bid to restore some pride
12:30 BST, Saturday 21st April, The Hawthorns (Birmingham, England) Sky Sports
The pressure has clearly lifted from West Brom’s collective shoulders over recent weeks and this newfound freedom now needs to be converted into momentum. New manager Darren Moore has collected as many points from his first two games in charge as his predecessor gathered in the previous 11. But while relegation still seems a near certainty for the Baggies, a second home win since the opening weekend would give their long-suffering fans a small token of comfort.
Liverpool will go into this fixture with West Brom as overwhelming favourites, however, the same was said of Manchester United last Sunday. Each of Liverpool’s four league defeats have come on the road this season, one of which to a Swansea side who were trapped in the relegation zone but with a new manager. There’s also the small matter of an FA Cup defeat suffered at the hands of West Brom in the club’s last meeting at Anfield in January but lightning couldn’t possibly strike twice, could it?
Last Time Out
Manchester United 0-1 West Bromwich Albion (Premier League)
West Brom claimed a surprise win at Old Trafford to deliver the Premier League title to the opposite side of Manchester. Although it was the home team who controlled most the match recording 70% of possession, West Brom rarely looked troubled in defence. Much of this was put on United’s lack of ambition in the post-game analysis, however, West Brom were well organised in front of an alert Ben Foster.
The game finished with 4 shots on target for both sides but Jay Rodriguez was the only player to find the net. His late run into the box for a corner found a loose ball 17 minutes from time which he duly finished to give the Baggies a shock lead. It proved enough for West Brom to take all three points and claim their 3rd win in 5 visits to Old Trafford.
Liverpool 3-0 Bournemouth (Premier League)
Liverpool crushed the Cherries to take victory in convincing fashion with yet another dominant display. It took only 7 minutes for Sadio Mané to open the scoring with his 10th league goal of the season, the winger reacting quickest in the Bournemouth box when his initial shot was saved.
Trent Alexander-Arnold continued his run of excellent form with another impressive display, not only in snuffing out Bournemouth’s attacks through ex-Liverpool winger Jordon Ibe but also with his supporting role in the Reds attack. His cross provided the perfect invitation for Mohamed Salah to notch his 30th league goal in the 69th minute that ended the match as a contest. While Roberto Firmino added a late third, there was little doubting the result by that stage.
West Bromwich Albion Lineup
It is likely to be a case of not trying to fix what doesn’t appear broken although Moore will have Sam Field available for selection again this weekend. Jonny Evans (knee) James Morrison (Achilles) Gareth Barry (knee) Hal Robson-Kanu (concussion) and Daniel Sturridge (ineligible) are all still unavailable while Nacer Chadli (fitness) also remains doubtful.
Klopp will still be without Joe Gomez (ankle) Joel Matip (thigh) Nathaniel Clyne (knock) Emre Can (back) and Adam Lallana (thigh) while a doubt over Dejan Lovren (knock is likely to mean an instant return to the team for Ragnar Klavan who has just recovered from a muscular injury. With Tuesday evening’s home Champions League tie against Roma on the horizon, Klopp could make at least one surprise in his selection for this weekend’s Premier League match.
Key Battle: Jay Rodriguez (West Brom) vs Ragnar Klavan (Liverpool)
Rodriguez has put the recent accusations of making racially aggravated comments to Brighton’s Gaëtan Bong firmly behind him to hit sparkling form over the last month. Having scored in 3 of his last 4 games, he’s finally delivering on the promise which brought him to the Hawthorns for £12m last summer. While he’s not been a prolific scorer since his year-long injury in 2014-15, his two goals in the FA Cup 4th round win at Anfield this year will have left Liverpool well aware of his talents.
Klavan is another player who has largely failed to live up to his potential in recent years. The Estonian centre-back has been pushed further to the outskirts of Liverpool’s first team with the arrival of Virgil van Dijk, not starting any Premier League games in central defence for the Reds since the Dutch defender signed in January. He was part of the makeshift defence which kept a clean sheet against Everton two weeks ago, however, and he can again prove himself able to fit into the side effectively this weekend.
West Brom are sitting on the cusp of a relegation which will give them an unwanted record. This will be the fourth time they’ve been relegated from the top-flight since the Premier League was formed 25 years ago.
But while they presently slouch towards a low-point, there is good reason to believe the cycle will come back around in their favour. The Baggies have also been promoted into the Premier League four times during this same period and are proving adept at floating back to the top after a fall.
England’s dark horse
Jordan Henderson found himself heavily criticised for both Liverpool and England at the beginning of this season, however, he’s starting to prove those critics wrong. His performance against Bournemouth was arguably his best to date this season as he has continued to grow his own game this season.
Henderson was at the heart of the 618 passes Liverpool completed against the Cherries, his 8.3% of time spent on the ball and 85 passes only bettered by the two centre-backs stood directly behind him. But while it’s easy to think of him as a safe ball-playing midfielder, his 320 passes into the final third of the pitch are more than any other English midfielder has made this season and that’s before his neat little back-heel flick from last weekend is taken into consideration for a player oozing with confidence.
Prediction: West Bromwich Albion 0-2 Liverpool
West Brom have played with an increased amount of confidence but still lack a creative edge to their game. Liverpool’s changes in personnel and the early kick-off time could well disrupt their flow in this match but the Reds will have enough quality to inflict a first defeat on Moore’s fledgeling managerial career.