The clash at the Hawthorns has taken on a rather less appetising look in recent weeks. West Brom have climbed up to 13th place after initial teething pains under new manager Tony Pulis. This position sees the Baggies eight points clear of the bottom three with safety almost guaranteed. Liverpool on the other hand are sliding, and fast. The Reds have pretty much dropped out of the race for the top four with back-to-back defeats to Manchester United and Arsenal and anything other than a perfect record from here on in will see them finish fifth or lower. Even a perfect record of six victories might not be enough with a maximum points haul of 75 still only just borderline when it comes to Champions League qualification.
Pulis will still be without first choice goalkeeper Ben Foster who remains out for the season with a bad ACL injury.
West Brom’s only other injury comes in the form of Craig Dawson who should miss out with a knee injury of his own.
Liverpool have a few injuries to key members of their squad which sees Brendan Rodgers with a selection dilemma before this Hawthorns clash. Lucas Leiva, who missed the FA Cup semi final defeat through injury, could be missing again with a thigh strain. Star defender Mamadou Sakho is definitely out for at least a couple more weeks with his hamstring injury. Walking sick note Daniel Sturridge should also be missing after suffering yet another thigh muscle strain. Adam Lallana remains sidelined with a groin injury.
- After failing to score in their first nine Premier League games against Liverpool, West Brom have scored in seven of their last eight meetings.
- Brendan Rodgers won both his meetings with West Brom as the manager of Swansea City but has only managed to win two of his five games against the Baggies as Liverpool boss (D1 L2).
- Tony Pulis has never lost a Premier League home game against Liverpool (W3, D3).
- Steven Gerrard would become only the 12th player in history to make 500 Premier League appearances should be play in this game. With only Ryan Giggs and Jamie Carragher managing the feat for one club.
- If only goals from English players counted, Liverpool would be top of the Premier League table on 65 points.
- 15 of Saido Berahino’s 18 goals in all competitions this season have come at the Hawthorns.
Saido Berahino has enjoyed a fruitful campaign in front of goal with 18 goals scored in all competitions as the season draws nearer to its close and suitors will surely be gathering for the young English prospect this coming summer. Berahino has been particularly potent in matches at the Hawthorns which means this depleted and tired looking Liverpool defence should take extra care during this encounter.
In the Premier League, Berahino has averaged 0.42 goals per 90 minutes played (p90) which means he scores a goal every two games or so, on average. Not bad for a striker whose game is nowhere near fully refined. Berahino also creates 0.91 chances p90, showing he’s not a completely selfish player, although it’d be nice to see this figure above one chance p90 rather than just below. His shooting accuracy is also competitive for a striker who takes a lot of shots. His figure of 52% is solid and about where it should be for a striker who regularly finds the net in the top division. Berahino is not just a simple finisher either. His 48.94% success rate when taking on his opponents also promises much from the young learner.
Liverpool will do well to keep him quiet for the whole game with the youngster ready to pounce at any half chance.
Jordan Henderson has enjoyed a rather mixed season at Liverpool but he’s probably still been one of the better performers at the club. Henderson has taken up the role of captain in recent months with Steven Gerrard injured and banned for most of the second half of the season. His record as captain has been impressive with his first defeat kept at arms length until well into the double figures for games played. The central midfield dynamo has continued to excel creatively but has often been wasted on the right as manager Brendan Rodgers has tinkered with his team at every possible turn.
Nevertheless, Henderson has still played a key role in Liverpool’s season and here’s why, The England international has scored 0.2 goals p90 which means he’s bagging at a rate of one goal every five games – not bad but obviously not brilliant. It’s good when you consider that he does a lot more than just attack but Liverpool have needed goals all season and some are disappointed with his lack of goals throughout the season (you’ll notice they’ve mostly come in a glut since the turn of the year). Henderson has also created 1.72 chances p90, on average, which makes him one of Liverpool’s most important attackers. To couple this, the £100k per week star has created eight assists in the league alone – making him one of the most creative forces in the league (although let us remember that creating chances is often more important than actual assist figures).
The general rule of thumb for Liverpool is that if Henderson plays centrally and well then they excel. If he plays badly in the centre or if he plays wide, they lose or draw. So there shouldn’t really be a choice to be made as to where he plays. The rest is down to him.
My prediction for this game is going to be 1-1. Liverpool don’t look to creative enough to get more than one goal a game and they don’t look solid enough to keep West Brom out so a low scoring draw is my shout.