West Bromwich Albion have unexpectedly become one of Liverpool’s bogie teams in the past few seasons, with the Reds earning a series of unfavourable results more often than not. It’s not necessarily the most feared fixture on the calendar each season, but the overachieving Baggies, led by former Liverpool assistant manager Steve Clarke, have found a way to regularly cause trouble for the Merseyside club of late.
But Liverpool aren’t the same club they were last year, and ahead of his club’s visit to Anfield on Saturday, Clarke said that his team’s past positive results have no real bearing on what they might achieve against a second year Brendan Rodgers club.
"It's a difficult game," said Clarke. "They are a different team to last season and have started this one well. They have dangerous players. The games from last season are good memories but no reference to what will happen this season, although we go with confidence after a good result at Manchester United."
Good results against mid-table clubs aside, West Brom haven’t beat a side in the current top four in league play yet this season, which could make Liverpool a real test for Clarke’s team. They drew to Arsenal at the beginning of the October and lost on penalties to Arsenal in the League Cup in late September, but they’ve mostly lucked out to face a fixture list similar in difficulty to the one Liverpool was assigned this year.
The former Anfield man also proved to not be immune to questions about a certain autobiography that came out earlier this week, and it’s unsurprising that, like many before him, he defied the assessment of Liverpool’s captain given by the septuagenarian Knight Bachelor in question.
"I worked with Steve Gerrard for 18 months, saw him close up and, for me, he's a top player," he added. "He's very, very good. He was always the best player on the training pitch and, nine times out of ten, the best on a match day. He looks after himself and works well. He's a top player and any manager who has been there has picked him."
Clarke's work with Liverpool with the club's defensive line caused some pangs of anguish last season as the success he built the previous year with the likes of Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger quickly evaporated upon his departure to his first managerial role at The Hawthorns. With Brendan Rodgers finally having sorted his back line, Clarke's absence certainly isn't nearly as painful as it might have once been in this area and it might now be Clarke's turn to feel the pain as West Brom face Liverpool's new squad for the first time.