By Christopher Boulay
Liverpool may be at its healthiest all season, the club has every player fit beyond Lucas Leiva and Charlie Adam. This will be important as the side hosts West Bromwich Albion at Anfield, looking to jump Everton into seventh place in the Premier League, as well as continuing to keep a bit of distance between the rest of the mid-table pack.
Despite last weekend’s impressive victory against Everton in the FA Cup semifinals, the pressure on manager Kenny Dalglish is high. Whether it is warranted or not, the fact remains that the club has been a disappointment in the league this season. Dalglish actually went public this week to say that if he does get the sack at the end of the season, he will have no regrets about how he went about his time in his second stint as Liverpool manager. One thing is for sure, the final five league matches – as well as the FA Cup final against Chelsea – will have a massive impact on his chances of continuing his reign on the sidelines at Anfield. No one knows what the ownership is thinking, and it can be assumed that Dalglish likely has much left to play for.
Dalglish will be boosted by having a nearly full squad to choose from, and it would not be surprising to see an offensive-minded side when the Baggies come to town. Andy Carroll is beginning to look like the striker everyone hoped for, and his future at the club may depend on his continued improvement. He may not be the “Divine Ponytail,” but his form – and partnership with Luis Suarez – is looking better by the day.
What may be the most comforting of all the team news to come out of Melwood this weekend is the return of Pepe Reina to the lineup after his suspension. In addition, Doni will likely resume his usual position on the bench, after he also served his one match ban for a red card against Blackburn Rovers.
If Liverpool beats West Brom, it will mark the club’s first three-match winning streak of the 2012 calendar year.
Having said that, it will be no easy task. Former Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson has helped West Brom reach safety comfortably, and the Baggies have been difficult this season for any competition. In addition, forward Peter Odemwingie is one goal away from 25 in the Premier League for West Brom. The mark would be the most ever for the Baggies. Currently, he has 10 goals for the club this season.
West Brom is coming off of an impressive 1-0 victory over Queens Park Rangers, thanks to a great strike from Graham Dorrans. If the club is to continue its impressive form, it will need to come up big at Anfield. The Baggies haven’t won in front of the Kop in 45 years, and other than one win at The Hawthorns last season, the club has been unable to solve the Reds in the past 30 years.
This is Hodgson’s first return to Anfield since he managed the club on January 1, 2011.
Liverpool v West Brom
When: Sunday, April 22th 1100 EST/ 1600 GMT
Where: Anfield, Liverpool
Premier League Table: Liverpool 8th (46 points), West Brom 13th (42 points)
Last Premier League Match: West Brom 1-0 QPR, Blackburn 2-3
Projected West Bromwich Albion Starting 11:
DEF: Ridgewell, McAuley, Dawson, Jones
MF: Brunt, Thomas, Dorrans, Mulumbu
FW: Odemwingie, Long
Subs from: Daniels, Shorey, Tamas, Hurst, Andrews, Scharner*, Fortune*, Cox
Projected Liverpool Starting 11:
DEF: Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Enrique
MF: Downing, Gerrard, Shelvey, Maxi
FW: Suarez, Carroll
Subs from: Doni, Aurelio, Kelly, Carragher, Coates, Wilson, Coady, Wisdom, Spearing, Henderson, Eccleston, Sterling, Kuyt, Bellamy
(*) = Late Fitness Test
Interact: What’s your final score prediction? What’s your predicted starting eleven? Comment below.