West Brom travel to Anfield for the Monday night game this week, bringing former Liverpool Assistant Manager Steve Clarke back to his former home to face Brendan Rodgers, a man he once worked with at Chelsea.
The Baggies crashed the party on the first day of the 2012/13 season, crushing Liverpool 3-0, and will be hoping to complete a Premier League double against them for the first time since 1967.
Liverpool will feel confident coming into this game though, having won a well deserved point at the Etihad on their last outing.
Matt Volpi of TLW asked Dave Hendrick, Sam Drury and Michael Luscombe to give their thoughts on the upcoming match, Liverpool’s chances and the recent announcement of Jamie Carragher’s retirement at the end of the season.
TLW: West Brom upset Brendan Rodgers welcome party on the first day of the season, embarrassing the reds by easing to a 3-0 victory with Daniel Agger sent off. What went wrong on the day? Do you see the Baggies doing something similar on Monday night?
Michael: I think Rodgers summed it up at the time. Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong and 3-0 was not a fair reflection of the game, especially considering our dominance in the first half. I don’t think West Brom will be beating us 0-3 at Anfield although we will have to maintain our recent level to get a victory as they do have it in them to be a very efficient team. Lukaku is a threat but hopefully the ongoing Odemwingie saga will act in our favour.
Sam: We didn’t take our chances! We were the better side for most of the first half but then a wonder-goal from Gera put them 1-0 at the break. After that the sending off and two penalties, we just crumbled. We were poor in the second half but it is a very different Liverpool side now. The confidence is there and we are winning the games we should be winning, at Anfield in particular so I can’t see a repeat of the opening day.
Dave: Everything that could have gone wrong that day, did go wrong. Largely down to Martin Skrtel having an absolute nightmare. I wouldn’t read too much into that result though, Skrtel’s errors and some poor officiating cost us that day. West Brom are an average team with an average manager who’s initial bounce is over. They’ve been shocking since Novemeber. 1 point from their last 6 games, and only 2 wins to show from their last 13 games(9 defeats in that time). I’m confident we can do to West Brom what we’ve done to Wigan, Fulham, Sunderland and Norwich at Anfield this season.
Matt: I think it was just one of those games that we fans had to sit through time after time last season – when everything just went wrong. A few crucial things went to West Brom and they opened the scoring with a belting goal from Gera, and we never recovered. It would be difficult to argue Liverpool deserved anything from the game but 3-0 certainly painted a harsh picture of the game, and it could have certainly been different if not for a few disastrous moments.
TLW: Which Albion players, in your opinion, represent the biggest danger to Liverpool and what can Brendan Rodgers do to nullify them?
Michael: Lukaku is the sort of striker that Liverpool have struggled against this season (Benteke, Matt Smith) but Carragher’s resurgence should help Liverpool in that aspect as he is very good at handling physical strikers. Shane Long’s pace is a threat but he isn’t as good as Odemwingie in my opinion. Mulumbu has impressed and will try to make it difficult for us to play our football but hopefully Lucas will win this battle in midfield.
Sam: Lukaku and Long are the obvious ones. Lukaku is just the type of striker we seem to have struggled against this season and has the pace to go with the strength and power he possesses. Long also has the pace and is a tireless worker who won’t give the Liverpool defence a moments peace if he plays. Both have the potential to hurt us if we aren’t at our best.
Dave: Shane Long is their biggest threat in my view. Lukaku is capable of having big games but he’s just as capable of being non-existent. I would worry slightly about Lukaku’s pace and power against Carragher but I think we’ll be able to cut his supply off at source and starve him of the ball. Liverpool need to be focused and they need to work hard. West Brom’s defensive players aren’t very comfortable on the ball and can be harried into mistakes. Force those mistakes and punish them, and Liverpool will pick up the 3 points.
Matt: I think West Brom’s forwards will give Liverpool the biggest problem, in different ways. Lukaku is the kind of striker that Liverpool have failed to deal with this season, physical. Kenwyne Jones, Cristian Benteke, and most recently Matt Smith have exposed the frailties of our defence already in this campaign, and Jamie Carragher should certainly keep his place on the team to marshal his troops into standing up to Lukaku. Shane Long is the other striker, and he is equally threatening. Long will not give a defender a moments piece and when given the chance, will put the ball in the back of the net. I expect West Brom will use him to disrupt Liverpool’s passing game at the back and it’s vital players like Enrique keep cool and don’t dawdle on the ball.
TLW: Jamie Carragher announced his retirement this week after 723 appearances for Liverpool over 16 years. The news was emotional for all Liverpool fans and spells the end of an era for a true club legend. Were you surprised by the news given Carragher’s recent prominence in the side? Does this make recruiting a centre back one of the top priorities in next summer’s transfer window?
Michael: I wasn’t surprised as I think Carragher would prefer to go out on a bit of a high, after being more involved in the first team recently. Next season his appearances would lessen even more and given how often his expressed his dislike for being on the bench I think this summer is the right time for him to retire. We will definitely need to sign a top centre back in the summer to partner Daniel Agger, someone who is physically imposing and who can play the ball out from the back – Sebastian Coates fits the bill but he needs to play regular games before being thrust into the role as first choice CB.
Sam: I was surprised at the timing but it makes sense when you see his explanation. He has been brilliant for the club throughout his time and is a true Liverpool legend. He will be missed, more for his character and leadership than his playing quality, although he has proved he still has plenty of that too, and replacing him as best we can will become a priority in the summer, yes. Skrtel has been very hit and miss this season and Coates seems likely to be on his way so with Carragher retiring as well I think we need to be looking at at least 1, probably 2, top centre-backs to be coming in.
Dave: I think it was a priority anyway. I expected Carragher to retire this summer with Kelly moving central to replace him, it’s just the timing that caught me off guard more than anything. I think Liverpool have needed a top class partner for Agger all season because Martin Skrtel, while he had a very good season last time around, simply isn’t top class.
Matt: I would have predicted it at the start of the season, but his recent performances had made me forget quite how old Carragher was getting. It was certainly an emotional moment and it’s fairly difficult to imagine Liverpool without Jamie Carragher. I would have liked us to bring in a centre back in January but it has now become even more prudent that a top class player is bought in at the nearest opportunity. Martin Skrtel hasn’t comfortably dealt with a forward all season and I would pretty much be happy to see the back of him in the summer and Coates looks well shy of becoming a premier league centre back. Someone to replace Carra’s usual position as a subsitute is needed and I feel a large portion of whatever funds are available should be invested in someone to partner Daniel Agger at the back.
TLW: Finally, as per usual, please give your predicted line-ups, score and scorers.
Michael: Reina Johnson Carragher Agger Enrique Lucas Gerrard Henderson Downing Suarez Sturridge/Borini (depending on if he’s fit). 3-1 to Liverpool. Suarez Suarez and Carragher with the goals!
Sam: Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique; Lucas, Gerrard; Downing, Suarez, Henderson; Sturridge. I’ll go for a 3-0 Liverpool win with Suarez getting 2 and Sturridge the other one.
Dave: Reina, Johnson-Carragher-Agger-Enrique, Lucas-Gerrard-Henderson, Downing-Sturridge-Suarez would be my guess. I think it’s our strongest team, although that does highlight our need for a new CB, a new LB and a new DM. I’ll go 4-1 Liverpool with 2 each for Suarez and Sturridge.
Matt: I’ll go for a 3-0 on this one, goals for Henderson, Suarez and Glen Johnson.