Match Preview: West Bromwich Albion v. Liverpool, 02.02.14

Laurence Griffiths

Team news, ways to watch, and a full preview as Liverpool head to the West Midlands to face West Brom.

After what ended up as a suspenseful (and unfortunately unsuccessful) deadline day, the real anxiety-inducing stuff actually begins. That doesn't exactly seem fair given how stressful yesterday was, but the transfer window always proves to be a maddening distraction from the true work at hand, which, in this season, is Liverpool's push to return to the Premier League's top four.

That they'll be making said push without any sort of squad reinforcements seems ridiculous, but that's the reality, and if Champions League football is on the horizon, it's going to have to come as a result of Brendan Rodgers getting the most out of his current squad. There's plenty of talent, no doubt, but they'll need to stay fortunate with injuries and maintain the type of form that's seen them in or around the top four for the entirety of the season.

Tomorrow's trip to West Brom has taken on added significance in light of yesterday's failures, as it's now become a statement match for Rodgers' squad rather than the launching pad into a bright and Ukranian-filled future. It's been more down than up for the (actual) Baggies this season, currently sitting just three points above the relegation zone and in their third match under new manager Pepe Mel. They got a good result in Mel's debut after winning just twice since the start of October, drawing 1-1 with Everton at home, but fell 4-3 at Aston Villa on Wednesday in the chaotic West Midlands derby despite taking a 2-0 lead within the opening 10 minutes.

Mel will be without Nicolas Anelka after the striker came off at Villa Park requiring stitches, and Stephane Sessegnon will be absent as well. New loan signing Thievy Bifouma will also be unavailable. Against Villa, Mel went with Ben Foster in goal, Steven Reid, Diego Lugano, Jonas Olsson, and Liam Ridgewell at the back, James Morrison, Claudio Yacob, Youssouf Mulumbu, and Chris Brunt in the midfield, and Anelka up top along with Victor Anichebe. Morgan Amalfitano replaced Anelka on Wednesday and could be in line for a start in his place.

For Liverpool:

Mignolet
Flanagan Skrtel Toure Cissokho
Gerrard
Henderson Coutinho
Sterling Suarez Sturridge

The only change in injury status appears to be a good one, with Joe Allen reportedly back with the squad and in contention for a spot tomorrow. Mamadou Sakho is still a few weeks away, and both Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique are out indefinitely. Lucas remains sidelined longer-term.

I don't know that there's any need to change much of anything ahead of tomorrow, though it's a match I'd expect to see Liverpool approach with a bit more aggression depending on how West Brom set up. That makes little difference defensively, with no new faces coming in given fitness concerns. Simon Mignolet in goal, Jon Flanagan--just back from injury himself and mighty impressive in the derby--at right-back with Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure central and Aly Cissokho on the left. Not a perfect back line by any stretch, but one that's stable enough.

The front six should be similarly unsurprising even with Joe Allen back; his presence give Brendan Rodgers more options, but tomorrow might be too soon to mix much of anything up. Steven Gerrard continues his deeper-lying role, with Jordan Henderson shuttling between the boxes and Philippe Coutinho dropping deeper to add pressure and link with the forward line.

We got plenty of pressure from Liverpool's front three on Tuesday as well, and that will likely continue in some form against West Brom. Daniel Sturridge spent plenty of time on the left opposite Raheem Sterling, but there was plenty of fluidity as well, and while West Brom might not be as open as Everton, the interaction between the front three along with Coutinho and Henderson will hopefully once again prove effective.

Kickoff is set for 1:30PM GMT/8:30AM EST, with Sky Sports 1 airing the match live in the UK and NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra carrying coverage in the US. Our coverage will start with the overnight open thread tonight and carry into the matchday post early tomorrow, which will have team sheets an hour before kickoff. Hope you'll be around to join us--if you haven't already, sign up for an SBNation profile and stick around.

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