Afternoon all. So, last season, if someone was asked to pick the winner of Liverpool
vs. West Bromwich Albion
at Anfield, there would have only been one answer - unless you supported West Brom! This time around, it's not so clear cut. We should have an entertaining encounter ahead of us.
Before we take a closer look at this contest, let's have a gander at the two starting lineups, beginning with the home side...
LIVERPOOL XI: Mignolet; Manquillo, Lovren, Skrtel, Moreno; Gerrard, Henderson, Lallana; Coutinho, Sterling; Lambert
LIVERPOOL SUBS: Jones, Toure, Johnson, Lucas, Markovic, Borini, Balotelli
So, having scored just one goal since his £16m move from AC Milan in August, Mario Balotelli has been dropped to the bench. His omission has presented an opportunity to Rickie Lambert, while Daniel Sturridge remains on the sideline with a muscular complaint. Elsewhere, left-back Alberto Moreno has been restored to the team, but Lazar Markovic has dropped out, with Adam Lallana
And, just in case you want a fancy graphic from Twitter of that Liverpool team, here you go:
Now for the visiting Baggies...
WEST BROM XI: Foster; Gamboa, Lescott, Dawson, Pocognoli; Dorrans, Morrison, Gardner, Brunt, Sessegnon; Berahino
WEST BROM SUBS: Myhill, McAuley, Mulumbu, Blanco, Yacob, Baird, Samaras
Alan Irvine, once a player and coach with Liverpool's rivals Everton, has made just one enforced alteration to his starting lineup. Andre Wisdom cannot play in this encounter because he is on loan at The Hawthorns from the hosts, so Costa Rica international Cristian Gamboa has come into the defence. Aside from that, West Brom are unchanged, which means that the in-form Saido Berahino
will continue to lead the attack.
Whether he is playing or not, you cannot ignore 'Super Mario', can you? He's been dropped down to the bench, perhaps with the level of his performance in Basel on Wednesday night in mind. When asked about the decision to omit the Italian, Rodgers has just told Sky Sports News
"It wasn't hard. It's for me to use the squad. Mario has played a lot of the games recently and Rickie has looked good in training. He scored the winner for Southampton at West Brom last season, so he has got the confidence. He's been patient."
© Getty Images
Just what is wrong with Liverpool right now? Is it as simple as losing Luis Suarez? After all, as good as the Uruguayan was, he also worked extremely hard for the team. He chased down defenders, which set the tone for his teammates and also meant that Liverpool defended from the front. That isn't Balotelli's game and although Lambert does put in a shift, it's doubtful that he can cover enough ground. Consequently, the results have suffered.
With regards to those results and performances heading into this encounter, Rodgers has told Sky Sports News
"It's about the performance level. We played well here against Everton and somewhat returned to the levels of intensity we are used to. We are looking for that performance to ignite our season at home and hopefully we can do that today."
Of course, this encounter is not all about Liverpool. West Brom, quite rightly, will be full of confidence today. The Baggies failed to win any of their opening four Premier League encounters, but since then, they've beaten Tottenham Hotspur and Burnley, keeping clean sheets in the process.
That solidity in defence may well have something to do with the introduction of Joleon Lescott. He arrived from Manchester City during the summer, but injury ruled him out until the Spurs game.
Recently speaking to Sky Sports News, former West Brom striker Kevin Phillips said of Lescott: "It was a bit of a surprise when he signed for West Brom as there were a host of clubs queuing up. But he wanted to come back to the Midlands and West Brom have got a real leader.
"We saw that a few a years ago when he struck up a partnership with Vincent Kompany and Man City won the league, and when he put his body on the line against Tottenham. When you've got that bit of experience in the back four and someone who can talk the youngsters through games and organise, it is a major boost."
© Getty Images
HEAD TO HEAD: During the Premier League era, these two sides have met on 16 occasions, with the Reds leading 11-4 overall. In all competitions throughout history, there have been 142 clashes, with West Brom having earned more draws (39) than victories (38). Liverpool, meanwhile, have won 65 times.
With not long left now until proceedings get underway on Merseyside, why not find out how Sports Mole
's very own Matt Law, Barney Corkhill and Pascel Lemesre see this fixture panning out:
PREDICTION: The chaps have had their say below, but I'll now throw my prediction out there as well. Liverpool have had their problems and it will be interesting to see what Lambert will provide to the team. An early goal will make a big difference and will also prevent any nerves from settling in among the supporters. Having said that, West Brom will be confident. Let's go for Liverpool to just edge it 2-1.
One thing is for sure, Liverpool will need a big performance from these two today:
Here come the two sets of players. It's a rather sunny afternoon on Merseyside! Not long now until we are off and running.
KICKOFF! Visiting West Brom, attacking from left to right during the first half, get proceedings underway at Anfield. It's a big 90 minutes ahead for both teams.
Liverpool have made a bright start here, with both Lallana and Coutinho looking to make something happen whenever they get the ball at their feet. Nevertheless, the West Brom rearguard and goalkeeper Ben Foster are yet to be tested and look comfortable.
CHANCE! Half an opening for the home side as skipper Gerrard whips over a dangerous free kick from the right flank. Skrtel has what appears to be a clear run, but his contact with the ball is not the cleanest under pressure and Foster is able to leap up highest to claim.
Now Gerrard has a chance to shoot from a free-kick which is pretty central, but he drives an effort straight at the West Brom wall. A player of his ability in those situations will be disappointed with that.
CHANCE! Big opportunity for Lambert to break his Anfield duck, but he fluffs his lines. Lallana does well initially to skip away from Lescott and get to the right byline. His cut-back lands in the path of Lambert, but he misses the ball completely. Then, moments later, Foster dives at the feet of Lallana after Sterling's shot is deflected. Liverpool are applying some decent pressure.
BOOKING! What a silly decision Liverpool defender Skrtel has made and it has cost him a caution. Yes, Berahino is quick, but he's going towards the corner flag when Skrtel unnecessarily brings him down. The Slovakian will have to be careful for the rest of the game now.
SAVE! Another big opening for Lambert, who will once again be disappointed with his finish. Skrtel picks him out with a long ball, which the striker controls well. However, while the angle may have been against Lambert, his finish from inside the penalty area was lacking in power and Foster was able to stop with relative ease.
Some very good passing football from West Brom, which eventually sees Brunt inherit possession on the right wing, having stolen in on the blindside of Moreno. He attempts to pick out an unmarked Dorrans inside the area, but his pass is cut out. Even so, that's much more positive from the away side, who haven't done too much so far.
There has been very little action to speak of over the last five minutes. Liverpool have dominated the possession, but since those early chances for Lambert, they haven't created much.
BOOKINGS! With right-back Gamboa pushed way up the field, Dawson is forced to come out wide from his central position and only succeeds in bringing down Lallana with a sliding challenge. A deserved caution. Liverpool skipper Gerrard has also been booked for grappling with Gamboa.
So far so good for the Liverpool defence, but can they keep a clean sheet today?
SAVE! West Brom youngster Berahino is full of confidence at the moment and he has just showed why. He picked up the ball midway inside the Liverpool half, before going on to step inside both Gerrard and Lovren. His shot from 20 yards out had plenty of swerve and power, but Mignolet did well to get down early and beat away the danger.
Another chance falls the way of Lambert as a quick counter-attack sees Sterling pick him out on the edge of the area. He steps inside, but that gives Lescott enough time to charge out and block his shot. It just isn't happening for the boyhood Liverpool fan right now.
CHANCE! And for all the chances that have been presented to Lambert, Berahino has just wasted the best one of the match so far up the other end. Pocognoli's cross evades both Skrtel and Lovren and it seems to be a simple headed opportunity for the West Brom youngster, but he mistimes his effort, which flies harmlessly over the bar from eight yards out.
GOAL! LIVERPOOL 1-0 WEST BROM (LALLANA)
What a great time this is to score for Liverpool, just moments before the break. It's all about Lallana, who wriggles free 20 yards from goal and plays the ball to Henderson, who sends an instant flicked pass back into the playmaker's path. With just Foster to beat, he then shows great composure to fire across the West Brom keeper and into the far corner of the net. That's his first Liverpool goal and what an important one it could turn out to be.
HALF-TIME: LIVERPOOL 1-0 WEST BROM
There goes the whistle for the break and West Brom are bound to be disappointed. It seemed that they were going to be heading back to their dressing room level at 0-0, but Lallana struck late on.
Rodgers stressed before the match that he wanted a decent performance from his team. He hasn't really got that yet, but he will be pleased that his side have broken the deadlock and do hold a one-goal advantage. Lallana has been lively from the first whistle and it was he who deservedly got his maiden goal for the club. The Reds have had plenty of possession, but have struggled to carve out too many opportunities.
As for West Brom, Irvine is going to have to lift his troops. They must be bitterly disappointed because with 44 minutes played, they had produced the perfect away performance. They soaked up the pressure and on occasions looked dangerous on the counter-attack. That goal from Lallana changes everything, though, and means that the Baggies are going need to be more adventurous at some point if they are going to return to the Black Country with at least a share of the spoils.
An image for you Liverpool fans as Lallana is congratulated by his teammates:
© Getty Images
RESTART! Right then - Liverpool, who lead 1-0, get this encounter back underway.
Fair play to West Brom because they've started the second half with real positive intent. Gamboa at right-back is getting forward well and he's just sent over a dangerous cross, but Mignolet was alert enough to race off his line and collect at the near post.
It's not like Lallana to pick out the wrong pass, but his radar must have been switched off a moment. Sterling had a free run on goal down the centre of the pitch, but Lallana didn't see him and instead picked out Coutinho, who was in an offside position.
PENALTY TO WEST BROM!
GOAL! LIVERPOOL 1-1 WEST BROM (BERAHINO)
What a cool penalty that is from the England Under-21 international. Liverpool are unhappy with the decision, with Lovren claiming that he brought down Berahino outside the area. Replays show that contact may indeed have been made outside the box, but it's a very, very tight call. For someone so young, the West Brom frontman shows great composure to send Mignolet the wrong way and the score is level.
CHANCE! Another one bites the dust as far as Lambert is concerned. Sterling's cross eventually finds the centre-forward, who goes for an instant half-volley 12 yards from goal. The ball is always rising, though. That could be his last action because Balotelli is warming up.
GOAL! LIVERPOOL 2-1 WEST BROM (HENDERSON)
As The Kop screams for a penalty after Sterling hits the deck following a trip by Gardner, the Liverpool winger gets up quickly and pulls a pass back for Henderson, who from 10 yards out, strokes the ball through a host of bodies and into the bottom corner of the net. That's a very good finish from the Liverpool midfielder. Relief at Anfield!
LIVERPOOL SUBS: It's time for Balotelli as he replaces Lambert, while Glen Johnson is also on after a spell on the sidelines through injury. He's gone straight in at right-back in place of Manquillo.
CHANCE! Very neat interchange inside the area involving Henderson and Lallana eventually finds Balotelli on the edge of the box. His effort from 20 yards out is curling goalwards, but there is not quite enough bend on the ball and Foster is able to watch the Italian's effort skew wide.
They are leading, so may not be too alarmed at present, but a worrying stat for Liverpool nonetheless:
CHANCE! Berahino really should be celebrating for a second time this afternoon. A cross from Brunt reaches the striker at the back post, but he heads the ball straight into the ground. It bounces up kindly for Mignolet, who catches the ball at the first attempt. He should be doing much better from six yards out.
LIVERPOOL SUB: Final change for Liverpool and it's a sign that Rodgers is keen to tighten things up. It's one Brazilian for another, with Coutinho trudging off and Lucas coming on.
There has also been an interesting tactical switch from Rodgers with Lucas coming on. The Brazilian is playing in the holding midfield role alongside Henderson, with Gerrard now pushed further up the pitch to support Balotelli. The captain's shackles have been loosened for the closing stages it would seem
WEST BROM SUB: A positive switch from West Brom boss Irvine as he brings off Morrison and replaces him with the lively Sebastian Blanco. Time is running out for the Baggies.
BOOKING! Lescott gets far too tight to Sterling, who spins the West Brom centre-back and wants to head goalwards. However, he's pulled back by his marker, who is correctly cautioned.
WEST BROM SUB: Final throw of the dice for West Brom as Georgios Samaras enters the field of play in place of Brunt.
West Brom have four minutes of stoppage time to salvage something here.
FULL TIME: LIVERPOOL 2-1 WEST BROM
Liverpool eased through stoppage time and as a result have their first victory in the Premier League since the end of August. It was far from convincing, but that will not matter too much right now. As for West Brom, despite the defeat, there were some positives to come out of that encounter.
That is all we have time from Anfield. Thanks for joining us this afternoon, but be sure to stick with Sports Mole for reaction, analysis and player ratings from all of the Premier League's 3pm matches. Until next time, goodbye.