After their disappointing display at Wembley last weekend, if Liverpool still have any realistic hope of salvaging what has been a miserable season, they’re going to have to kick-start a revival against West Bromwich Albion tomorrow.
This club might be all about winning trophies, but at this point in time, qualifying for the Champions League for the second year on the bounce might just be good enough to keep the critics off their back and shoo the vultures circling around Reds boss Brendan Rodgers. As unlikely as that may seem, sitting seven points off of fourth placed Manchester City with a match in hand, it’s not impossible quite yet with the Citizens looking ripe to continue their spectacular implosion. That being said, the Baggies won’t be interested at all in giving us a leg-up — they have their own problems to worry about.
Last weekend’s convincing victory against Crystal Palace moved the Black Country side closer to the magic 40-point safety zone, but their Premier League status isn’t assure quite yet. The mere fact that boss Tony Pulis has never been relegated from the top flight will give the Hawthorns faithful piece of mind, but three points on Saturday will give them something tangible to hold on to. It wouldn’t be the first time that they’ve taken the Anfield outfit to task.
After losing out to Aston Villa on Sunday, the Villans have officially taken over the mantle of being the Reds bogey team, but West Brom are no slouches in that department. It wasn’t all that long ago that both Steve Clarke and Roy Hodgson masterminded back to back doubles over their former employers. We may have taken the West Midlands side to task earlier in the season, but they’re now looking a different beast altogether with the threat of dropping down to the Championship proving to be a very effective motivator.
During his time at Stoke City, Pulis maintained an excellent record against the Anfield outfit, but it was last season when he was in charge at Crystal Palace that he really cemented his status as a huge, Welsh thorn in our side when he upset our title charge, pulling his team back from three goals down to snatch an unlikely point at Selhurst Park.
The Baggies boss will be without long-term absentee Ben Foster, Andre Wisdom is ineligible to play against his parent club and Youssouf Mulumbu will serve his last match of a three match ban on Saturday. Defender Craig Dawson could also miss out with a knee problem, but West Brom’s biggest concern will be Saido Berahino — and not because of a knock. The youngster, who has 18-goals in all competitions this season, hasn’t hit the net in six matches as his dry spell, which stretches back to early March, continuing in earnest.
That will do the Reds just fine though as they’ve looked a bit shaky at the back as of late. The absence of both Mamadou Sakho and Lucas Leiva has contributed to that significantly and both will again miss out through injury this weekend. The Anfield outfit are also having a tough time in front of the net and that’s only been compounded by Daniel Sturridge’s on-going fitness problems. The 25-year old will once again be on the treatment table when the Reds run out this weekend, but boss Brendan Rodgers could call on Adam Lallana after the midfielder returned to full training earlier this week. Despite their squad short-comings, as I said after the Villa debacle, it’s more often the players on the pitch that make the difference rather than those off of it.
There was a notable lack of cohesion and heart in the Reds display last Sunday and that’s something that’s going to have to be nipped in the bud if we even want to think about having a conversation about finishing in the top four. Injuries have played their part, that’s not debatable, but these players and this manager have enough talent between them for the supporters to realistically expect a performance each and every time they step out onto the pitch. There’s no easy games — blah, blah, blah — but there’s no excuse for rolling over and playing dead either.
The Baggies will more than likely be fine if they don’t win on Saturday, but if we come up short our chances of catching the top four will be over. If that’s not something worth fighting for then I don’t know what is…