LIVERPOOL make the trip to The Hawthorns to face West Brom on Sunday; have the Reds turned a corner? We asked Will Dyer (@w2dyer).
West Brom v Liverpool | Sunday 13:30 | Sky Sports 1
Liverpool’s second-half comeback at the Bet365 Stadium last weekend has put them in the driving seat for Champions League football.
They started the match with a very unfamiliar line-up and particularly weak attack. Jonathan Walters added to his record of seven goals in 18 games against the Reds just before the break, to make it 1-0 Stoke.
At half-time, Jurgen Klopp replaced Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben Woodburn with Roberto Firmino and Phillippe Coutinho and it had an immediate effect, as expected.
The former have big futures but they are very inexperienced and it disrupted the rest of the team; Nathaniel Clyne had to play at left back and James Milner in midfield, in order to incorporate them.
It was a breakthrough for Klopp. The Reds hadn’t won an away game in the Premier League in 2017 prior to victory in Stoke, despite having played bottom dwellers Hull and Sunderland in that period. Now this fixture at The Hawthorns is a chance to build upon that triumph.
West Brom have had a good season under Tony Pulis. Earlier in the season. They were appalling to watch – even when winning – but over the last four months or so they have improved significantly; Matt Phillips, James McClean, Chris Brunt and Nacer Chadli all providing great outlets on the wing when called upon.
They are still happy to surrender possession and seek goals on the counter, which frustrates many a fan but it’s not too dissimilar to the style in which Leicester won the Premier League. At Anfield in October, Pulis’ charges had just 32% of the ball and more of the same is to be expected.
Beach Boy Baggies
What will be more frustrating than anything is the lack of ambition, the Baggies were primed to make a late challenge for seventh spot at the end of February but they’ve won just one of six games since.
West Brom have a history of raising their game against the top teams, point in case being their 3-1 victory over Arsenal a month ago. However, that was actually only their third victory over a top-half team this season, the others being the 2-1 win at St Mary’s and 3-1 win over Watford at The Hawthorns.
This season’s success has been very much built on beating the lower sides. At time of writing, their record against the current top-10 reads; W3-D2-L10.
Their run-in starts with this Liverpool game and also includes fixtures against Man City, Leicester and Chelsea. As a result, I am not anticipating that they build much on their 44 points.
The Reds are the league’s top scorers with 68 goals now and although I do not completely trust them in fixtures like this, they have a better record against the current top-half than anyone else in the division and the 19/20 about a home win makes plenty of appeal.
They are still missing Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana and Sadio Mane but, with Coutinho and Firmino on from the start and a more typical structure at the back, I think we’ll see more of the Liverpool we saw in the second-half against Stoke for the majority of this game.
That should see them create enough to edge out the Baggies.
West Bromwich Albion v Liverpool – Liverpool to win (19/20 Betfair)