The mirroring of fixtures between Liverpool and Manchester United continues this week. Earlier in the week, Manchester United played Bournemouth, whom the Reds had played last Saturday. Now, this Saturday, Liverpool gear up to visit The Hawthorns to play West Bromwich Albion, who beat Manchester United at Old Trafford last Sunday. Liverpool fans certainly will be hoping that the parallelism ends at the fixture similarity and does not extend to the results.
Before last week’s shock win over the Red Devils, West Brom seemed doomed for relegation. They still are the favourites to be relegated first and it could happen as early as this game week if all the results go against them. However, with that win in Manchester, the Baggies have given themselves a glimmer of hope. The ask for them is simple – win all their remaining four games and hope that one of the teams from 17th placed Swansea to 14th placed West Ham is not able to reach 36 points. Results under the newly appointed Darren Moore have been promising as he has arrested a run of defeats and is trying to turn the ship around with a draw against Swansea and the aforementioned win at Old Trafford. But, in Liverpool, he faces a different kind of a challenge.
There are no such worries for Liverpool, who have one eye on the Champions League semi-final against AS Roma to be played next week. But they cannot really afford to ignore this league fixture completely. Chelsea are almost out of the race for top-four but not completely out of it. If the Blues beat Burnley on Friday, they will be 7 points behind the Reds with both teams having 4 games to play. As last season’s champions showed us last weekend, they have a lot of fight in them and can catch up on those 7 points. Thus, while Jurgen Klopp should indeed prepare for the semi-final, he and his team should also prepare to shore up the points in the league. While last Saturday’s win against Bournemouth did not indicate any drop in intensity from the Reds, Klopp will be required to rotate in some of these league games. Liverpool fans will hope that their team can continue its winning run despite a few rotations.
- Of the 150 matches that have been played, West Brom have won 39 times, there have been 43 draws and Liverpool have been victorious on 68 occasions. However, Liverpool only lead the head to head tie by four wins if we look at matches played at The Hawthorns ahead of their 60th clash with WBA there.
- This season is the first since 1921/22 that West Brom have beaten both Liverpool and Manchester United away from home.
- Sadio Mane is now the highest scoring Senegalese player in PL history having notched 44 goals, outdoing Demba Ba’s previous record of 43.
- Jurgen Klopp’s record vs West Brom indeed is incongruent with his overall record while in charge of Liverpool. Under the German’s guidance, the Reds have lost one and drew three against the Baggies, while winning twice. The latest encounter saw West Brom ending Liverpool’s FA Cup campaign earlier this season.
Outscoring Liverpool is out of the question for West Brom. Thus, if the Baggies are to overcome the Reds, the home side will need to stop the visitors from scoring. And to achieve this goal, their key man will be Ahmed Hegazi. With 7.3 clearances per 90 minutes, he ensures that there are few second – or third- ball chances available to the attacking teams. He is relatively sharp in anticipating the attackers’ passes and does intercept 1.6 every 90 minutes. His blocking is equally good, as he blocks 1 shot and 0.2 crosses every 90 minutes. Thus, Hegazi will ensure that Liverpool have to work that bit more to get the goals they will need. He just might ensure that the Reds do not get the goals they may need.
One stat that emerged this week was that in 130 years of league football, Roberto Firmino is the first player to create 50+ chances and complete 60+ tackles in a single season. So, even if it is likely that he may not start on Saturday as he will be rested for the semifinal, chances are that he will play a major role in deciding the game – especially given how blunt Solanke and Ings have been in front of the goal. Roberto Firmino has scored 15 goals and 7 assists in the league. He has contributed to five goals (3 scored, 2 assisted) in his last five league appearances. While the Baggies might be justifiably worried about Salah, they would do well to mark Firmino well too.
West Brom cannot play Sturridge in this game as he cannot play against his home club. Jonny Evans, Nacer Chadli, Gareth Barry and James Morrison are all sidelined as well. This could mean that Darren Moore sticks to the same eleven that beat Manchester United on Sunday.
Liverpool need to rotate so that their key players are rested and available for next week’s semifinal against Roma. Thus, we can expect starts for Ings, Solanke, Klavan, Moreno and possibly even Clyne. Matip, Lallana, and Emre Can are definitely out, while Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren are both doubtful to start.
While the Baggies have caused trouble for Liverpool earlier this season – in fact, they have not lost to the Reds yet this season – but on Saturday, it will be difficult for them to continue that unbeaten run. Yes, the Reds will likely start without their prolific front three, but they will also come into this game after a full week’s rest. A well-rested Liverpool side, even though slightly depleted, will be more than a match for West Brom. It may not be as easy a win as the last game against Bournemouth was, but Liverpool should edge this encounter in the end.