If there’s one thing that Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has been trying to stress since the start of the season it’s that a match is never ours to lose. No matter who the opponent is or what is historically expected of them, there’s no easy matches and if we want to win — and we always want to win — we’re going to have to work hard to it.
On a six match unbeaten streak and scoring goals for fun, the Reds will have a lot of punters checking out the latest Liverpool betting odds with expectation being that they’re going to put the disappointing draw with Manchester United earlier in the week behind them by smashing West Bromwich Albion at Anfield tomorrow, but if there’s one manager that knows a thing or two about suffocating the life out of a game, it’s Baggies boss Tony Pulis.
Expected to employ the same kind of tactics that saw United boss Jose Mourinho leave Merseyside with a precious point on Monday, the former Stoke City supremo is unlikely to take the game to their hosts. Boasting a defense that has conceded only one first half goal since the start of the campaign, Pulis has kept things tight at the back — though he’ll be disappointed to have given up a late equalizer as the West Midlands club secured their third draw on the bounce as Tottenham Hotspur came from behind to snatch a point at the Hawthorns.
Although his teams are known for the defensive organization, Pulis could find things a bit tougher at the back tomorrow with defender Jonny Evans serving a one match ban after the former United man picked up his fifth yellow card of the season. Jonas Olsson, who has been a peripheral figure thus far, will most likely be drafted in to replace him, but whether or not the Baggies can create anything going forward will be the most likely indication of whether or not they can get out of Anfield with anything to show for it. That, of course, will likely come through Nacer Chadli with the Belgian attacker on fire since his move from Spurs over the summer, but the physical threat of Salomon Rondon, who caused all kinds of problems in this fixture last season, can’t be discounted.
And, considering that Liverpool kept only their first clean sheet of the season on Monday night, they remain as vulnerable as ever at the back. Maybe they’ve been shored up a bit with the defensive pairing of Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip clicking wonderfully and Nathaniel Clyne and James Milner holding steady on the flanks, but there’s still that underlying sense of panic when we’re on the back-foot. It’s far too early to say for sure, but there’s still questions lingering about new ‘keeper Loris Karius and his ability to command the box — questions you don’t want to ask when a big team like the Baggies come to town.
With Adam Lallana back in full training after only being fit enough for the bench against Man United and Georginio Wijnaldum in contention after shaking off his hip injury, Klopp could very well name what has been his preferred starting eleven since the start of the season with the afformentioned two flanking club captain Jordan Henderson in the middle of the park and the attacking trio of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane looking to cause problems ahead of them.
If we want to keep pace at the top of the table, we’re going to have to get back to winning ways — it’s as simple, and as absolutely difficult, as that. Missing out on a golden opportunity to not only go level on points with league leaders Manchester City, but to go six points clear of United, with Monday night’s draw, claiming three-points on Saturday is just as important as ever. Even for the all conquering Liverpool teams of the 70’s and 80’s it was never there’s to lose, but it was always there’s to win.
Hard work, each and every game; it’s the only way.