Rest comes for some starting Saturday evening, and while the last international break came at an inconvenient time, this one will arrive feeling more like an actual break. Regardless of how Liverpool do tomorrow against West Brom, it's been a less than enjoyable stretch since the last set of internationals wrapped up, hampered by injury and loss of whatever form the squad had to start the season, and now they can hopefully regroup, return to fitness, and find some sort of consistent form ahead of a busy few months.
Before they get there they'll have to deal with a West Brom side that's won three straight in all competitions; a home loss to Everton preceded a 1-0 win away to Spurs at White Hart Lane, which was followed by a narrow 3-2 victory over Hull City in the League Cup and a 4-0 blasting of Burnley last weekend. Currently on eight points, they're four spots clear of Liverpool but only one point ahead given how congested the early season table tends to be.
First-year manager Alan Irvine will be without Silvestre Varela, Brown Ideye, and Victor Anichebe tomorrow due to injury, and Liverpool loanee Andre Wisdom is also left out due to restrictions in the loan agreement. Against Burnley last weekend, Irvine went with Ben Foster in goal, Wisdom, Craig Dawson, Joleon Lescott, and Sebastien Pocognoli across the back, Craig Gardner, Graham Dorrans, James Morrison, and Chris Brunt in the midfield, and Stephane Sessegnon and Saido Berahino--who scored twice--up top. Costa Rican international Cristian Gamboa is expected to take Wisdom's place in the starting eleven.
Manquillo Skrtel Lovren Moreno
Early Thursday Brendan Rodgers added Suso to his list of injuries while ruling out a return for the rest, with Daniel Sturridge possibly getting a few minutes as part of his recovery. That means Suso joins Joe Allen, Emre Can, Glen Johnson, and Jon Flanagan on the injury list, with a host of others on tired legs after a busy few weeks.
Top of the fatigued list are Javier Manquillo, Steven Gerrard, and Raheem Sterling, with Mario Balotelli and Jordan Henderson logging plenty of minutes as well. Manquillo could make his seventh start since September 13th; he came off on 21 minutes at West Ham but has otherwise played every minute of the six matches prior to tomorrow's, and while there aren't any ready-made solutions available with Flanagan and Johnson absent, it'd be nice for him to have some time off. At the back the only change I'd expect to see is Alberto Moreno back in the eleven after Jose Enrique faced Basel on Wednesday night.
The midfield desperately needs tinkering, and I'd love to see Lucas come in at the base of a diamond with Henderson and Coutinho behind Adam Lallana. Lucas is still perfectly capable of doing a job deeper in midfield, especially with two energetic midfielders flanking him. We'll probably get Gerrard, unfortunately, but Coutinho and Lallana should be nailed-on to feature, ideally in a diamond as well with Sterling left on the bench. He's excellent, yes, one of the world's best under-20 talents, but he needs time off.
It's tempting to suggest that Balotelli does as well, and a start for Rickie Lambert alongside Fabio Borini wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Very little has come off for the Italian over the past few weeks, and a stint on the bench might do him some good. We're yet to see Lambert and Borini partner, and it's probably unlikely, but it would essentially be the same principle as Balotelli and Borini--the former holds up play and drops deep to link play, the latter makes runs in behind to provide an option.
Kickoff is set for 3:00PM BST/10:00AM EST, with NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra airing the match 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.