Both these teams head into this game after gruelling derbies which ended in very different results. West Brom were involved in a thrilling seven goal match which eventually saw Aston Villa steal all three points whereas Liverpool cruised to a 4-0 victory over Everton courtesy of a magnificent attacking display. The Baggies go into this game having won just one Premier League game in their last ten attempts compared to Liverpool who have lost just two games in their last ten including three wins in their last four matches. Both teams should be well rested for this one with the game taking place on the Sunday rather than the Saturday but Liverpool have had an extra days rest with their game against Everton being played on Tuesday night – West Brom’s loss to Villa came on Wednesday night.
Pepe Mel will consider himself the luckiest manager in the league when it comes to the level of his squad’s fitness with his squad list containing just two injuries to first team players. Controversial French striker Nicolas Anelka will be out with a knee injury whilst attacking outlet Sessegnon is out until March with a groin injury.
In comparison, Brendan Rodgers will look upon his squad with a look of complete dismay. The Reds are currently hampered by no less than seven injuries – and many of those are to key personnel. Full backs Glen Johnson and José Enrique are both missing with ankle and knee injuries respectively – Rodgers had expected Enrique to be back around this time of the season but has since spoken of his disappointment with the Spaniard’s rehabilitation. Centre backs Agger and Sakho are both still sidelined with calf and hamstring injuries but Agger could be back next weekend. Coates remains a long term injury worry with an ACL injury whereas Lucas is slightly less long term but is still out until at least the middle of March with knee ligament damage. Joe Allen is Rodgers’ only ray of injury-related sunshine as he should be fit to play some part against West Brom.
West Brom did the double over Liverpool last season with a 3-0 opening day win and a 2-0 Anfield win which represented the ultimate smash and grab in a game completely dominated by the Reds. Romelu Lukaku was the chief tormentor in those fixtures but he now resides at Everton after his loan spell from Chelsea ended at the end of last season.
Liverpool have already beaten West Brom this season with a 4-1 win at Anfield. Luis Suárez scored a hat-trick that day and Reds’ fans will be looking for more of the same.
Luis Suárez equalled his goal haul from last season with his second half goal against Everton taking him to 23 goals for this season. West Brom have just 27 goals from the whole of this Premier League campaign.
West Brom have kept just five clean sheets all season compared to Liverpool’s seven so goals can be expected in this one. Only Fulham have kept less clean sheets than West Brom – the Cottagers have just three clean sheets to their name this season.
Daniel Sturridge has scored in his last four Liverpool games in all competitions – including the goal he scored against Bournemouth in the FA Cup. Steven Gerrard has scored in his last three league games too, however, that run includes two penalties.
Claudio Yacob has been a real success story since he arrived at West Brom and has had an impressive season in the middle of the Baggies midfield despite the poor form of the overall team. The spiky midfielder played 88% of his passes to a team-mate in the 4-3 loss to Aston Villa on Wednesday night showing what a composed character he is. He’s not the most creative of players having made just one clear-cut chance all season – but this is not really his main job. The Argentine midfielder is very powerful off the ball and has displayed an excellent success rate when he enters into a tackle – his current tackle success rate is 81% and Yacob has posted a 100% win rate in no less than nine different game this season. Yacob isn’t great in the air with a modest 42% aerial duels win percentage, perhaps Liverpool’s aerial weakness will be less heavily scrutinised in this fixture.
The former Chelsea striker has been in fine form this season and has so far netted 13 league goals from 53 shots – a good January return for a striker who has missed a large chunk of the season through injury. Sturridge posts a very competitive 47% clear-cut chance conversion rate and the England striker has also made five clear-cut chances for his team-mates – with three assists so far this season. Of Sturridge’s 13 goals this season, none of them have found their way past the opposition goalkeeper through the centre of the goal – Sturridge has put eight goals to the ‘keeper’s left and five to the ‘keeper’s right. Sturridge scored in the Anfield win over West Brom earlier this season and will be confident of doing so again.
The midweek derbies may have taken a lot out of these teams but West Brom will be mentally scarred by their stressful 4-3 defeat to Aston Villa. Whereas Liverpool swept Everton aside to win 4-0 under the Anfield floodlights, West Brom looked frail and Liverpool’s defence should prove harder to penetrate than Aston Villa’s. I’m going to go for a 2-1 or 3-1 Liverpool win – both teams to score is a real possibility.