By Christopher Boulay
Liverpool will head to the Hawthorns on Wednesday to defend a title for the first time since the 2006-07 Third Round Proper of the FA Cup against Arsenal. With manager Brendan Rodgers opting to take the same approach in this tournament as Europa League, it will be up to the reserves to ensure the Reds have a chance to make it back to Wembley in February.
Liverpool has more League Cup trophies than any other club in England, but the squad may have a difficult time dealing with the Baggies, as the Black Country club handily defeated the Reds 3-0 back in August. While it has been a little more than one month since that match, the task could be made more difficult without many members of the first team, depending on how the season is looked at. The first team scored five goals in five matches so far in the Premier League, while the considerably less experienced Europa League side put in five over the course of just 90 minutes. While BSC Young Boys may not have the talent of West Brom, the confidence may ignite the squad, and push it toward another win.
The Reds will have to do it without Jonjo Shelvey, who was sent-off in the 2-1 loss against Manchester United for a tackle on Jonny Evans. Shelvey will be missed, as he came on as a substitute in the second half against Young Boys and led the squad to victory with a brace in the last 24 minutes of regular time.
Jordan Henderson should get another chance to impress, as the English international began getting some minutes in recent matches. If he can lead the side to a strong performance, it may be only a matter of time before he receives more opportunities in league matches.
The club may see more from Brad Jones in net, which will give Pepe Reina another chance to rest and watch from the stands before the fixture with Norwich City this weekend. Additionally, forward Adam Morgan made the trip to the Midlands, which could give the young reserve a confidence boost ahead of the match.
Both Jerome Thomas and James Morrison are injured for the Baggies, but the club may have the latter player ready for the match. However, there won’t be any possibility of having forward Peter Odemwingie on the pitch, as he is suspended. With this in mind, Shane Long could see action up front.
West Brom has an advantage against Liverpool in recent fixtures, with the Baggies winning three of the past four meetings. A win against Reading this past weekend will help increase momentum, as the club is in third place in the Premier League after five matches. Steve Clarke, former assistant at Liverpool under Kenny Dalglish, and now manager of the Baggies, will look to take the cup away from Anfield that he helped the club earn.
West Bromwich Albion v Liverpool
When: Wednesday, September 26, 1500 EST/2000 GMT
Where: The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
2011-12 League Cup Finish: WBA: Third Round, Liverpool: Champions
Projected West Brom Starting 11
DEF: McAuley,Olsson, Ridgewell, Jones
MID: Brunt, Yacob, Dorrans, Mulumbu
FW: Lukaku, Long
Subs from: Myhill, Tamas, Hurst, El Ghanassy, Jara-Reyes, Thorne, Allan, Gera, Morrison, Fortune, Rosenberg, Berahino
Projected Liverpool Starting 11
DEF: Wisdom, Wilson, Carragher, Robinson
MID: Sahin, Pacheco, Henderson
FW: Assaidi, Yesil, Suso
Subs from: Gulasci, Enrique, Flanagan, Skrtel, Coates, Downing, Morgan, Sterling, Coady, Suarez
Interact: What’s your projected lineup and final score prediction? Comment below.