West Bromwich Albion vs Liverpool
The Hawthorns Stadium
Kick Off: 15:00 BST, 20:30 IST
Referee: Phil Dowd
Merseysiders Liverpool, who are under new management, travel to the Hawthorns to face West Bromwich Albion who are also under new management in the form of Steve Clarke, who was Kenny Dalglish’s assistant during his tumultuous reign at Anfield. Clarke, who got axed after Dalglish, despite Rodgers wanting him to stay, took over the reins of the Baggies after current England manager Roy Hodgson departed after the end of last season.
The last time Liverpool played West Brom at the Hawthorns, they won 2-0 with striker Andy Carroll bagging a goal.
The Brendan Rodgers era is well and truly on, with youngsters Fabio Borini, Joe Allen, and Oussama Assaidi having been recruited with a combined reported budget of less than £30 million pounds. Borini and Allen have played under Rodgers before, and are accustomed to the philosophy that Rodgers seeks to implement at Merseyside. Assaidi on the other hand, is a pacey winger, who will be looked at as impact-sub during his initial weeks. Joe Cole has also returned after spending a season on-loan at Lille OSC.
The same back-four from last season, of Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, and Enrique should start against Albion, with Reina between the sticks. Agger will look to prove his loyalty to the Reds, after finally squashing all rumours of his departure to either City or Barcelona.
Lucas is finally back, and was heavily missed last season, and Liverpool crumbled without him. He will sit in front the defence, and Gerrard and Allen should ideally play in front of him. If Allen doesn’t start, it will be either Henderson or Jonjo Shelvey.
Fabio Borini is expected to lead the forward line, with the talismanic Luis Suarez playing on the right, and the much maligned Stewart Downing on the left, who will be looking to prove his numerous doubters wrong. If not Downing, Joe Cole will probably feature on the left.
Possible starting line-up:
Johnson – Agger – Skrtel – Enrique
Gerrard – Allen/Henderson
Suarez – Borini – Downing/Cole
Clarke’s biggest buy of the summer is his loan signing of Chelsea’s £18 million ‘future Didier Drogba’, Romelu Lukaku. The talented 19-year old Belgian will be raring to go and put a torrid debut season in the EPL behind him. His comparisons with Drogba aren’t mere words, as he was a phenomenon at Anderlecht.
Clarke also managed to Ben Foster on a permanent deal and has also signed Swedish freebie Markus Rosenberg.
Foster will definitely start, and the back-four will probably consist of Jones, Ridgewell, Olsson and McAuley, with Youssouf Mulumbu expected to slot against another newbie Claudio Jacub in front of them.
Star man Peter Odemwingie will start on the right, with Captain Chris Brunt on the left, and James Morrison playing through the centre.
Shane Long will in all probability start for The Baggies, but if the manager goes with a two-striker formation, then Romelu Lukaku will also get a chance.
Possible starting line-up:
Jones – Ridgewell – Olsson – McAuley
Mulumbu – Jacub
Odemwingie – Morrison – Brunt
Players to look out for:
The former Roma striker Fabio Borini will be the cynosure of all eyes, as he is expected to be the answer to Liverpool’s goalscoring woes, after their legendary affinity to the woodwork last season. Borini scored a well taken goal against FC Gomel in the Europa League, and that could just be a sign of things to come.
If he starts, Joe Allen will also look to impress, with his manager claiming that people mistake him to be ‘Spanish’, that good is his passing ability. The usual suspects Gerrard, Suarez and Agger will lead the team.
Romelu Lukaku, who failed to receive any chances whatsoever at the Bridge will be yearning to show the world his potential and could possibly explode into life at the Hawthorns.
Peter Odemwingie, will also look break on the counter attack against the Reds and Ben Foster will be kept busy by a Liverpool side which will look to attack, attack and attack heavily.
Liverpool lost their last showdown against the Baggies, 1-0 at Anfield. They’ve traditionally struggled against teams like Albion in the last few seasons, but due to the presence of Brendan Rodgers and his new style, I expect them to clinch a win, and expect Steve Clarke’s men to run them close.
West Bromwich Albion 0-2 Liverpool
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