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Preview: West Bromwich Albion vs. Liverpool

Sports Mole looks ahead to the Premier League clash between West Bromwich Albion and Liverpool at The Hawthorns.

West Bromwich Albion breathed a huge sigh of relief as they defeated Crystal Palace last week to all but secure their Premier League status ahead of the visit of Liverpool.

Brendan Rodgers's men will be looking to dampen the home side's spirits as they are in dire need of a victory to keep their push for a Champions League place alive.

West Brom

West Bromwich Albion's Welsh manager Tony Pulis shouts from the touchline during the English Premier League football match against Everton on January 19, 2015© Getty Images

The Baggies produced an excellent performance at Selhurst Park to end Palace's four-game winning streak to give them an eight-point cushion from the relegation zone.

The victory ended a run of three straight defeats for Tony Pulis's men to stop their slide towards the bottom three, and should give them impetus to end their season on a high note.

West Brom's key to the three points against the Eagles was keeping their first clean sheet in four matches. The Baggies have not won under Pulis without keeping their opposition at bay in his brief tenure at the club.

Despite their relatively mediocre defensive record this season, only Chelsea and Southampton have managed to keep more clean sheets than the Baggies in the Premier League. Seven of those shutouts have come under Pulis's charge since January.

Goals would have been of concern to the Welshman until his side netted twice in their last two games, but Craig Gardner hit the target to ease the burden on his strikeforce, who have struggled in front of goal in recent weeks.

Saido Berahino is currently going through a dry spell in front of the net as his last strike came back in early March, a run which has lasted six matches. The 21-year-old previously went on an 11-game run without a goal earlier in the season, as his 18 strikes in all competitions this season have often come in spurts.

The Baggies have been decent at The Hawthorns this season as 21 of their 36 points have come at home, although they have lost their last two matches in front of their supporters to Queens Park Rangers and Leicester City.

There is enough motivation from that spell of form to encourage Pulis's men to take the match to Liverpool on Saturday.

Recent form: LWLLLW


Brendan Rodgers, manager of Liverpool looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on November 23, 2014© Getty Images

Rodgers will be looking for a response from his side after he saw their FA Cup dreams ended by their 2-1 semi-final defeat to Aston Villa at Wembley last week.

Liverpool are now in a desperate battle to close the gap to Manchester City in fourth place for the final Champions League spot to ensure their season cannot be deemed a failure.

The club's recent form will be a major concern to Rodgers as they are ending the campaign with a whimper following their recent defeats to Manchester United and Arsenal along with Villa.

The Reds will also be determined to at least hang on to their place in the Europa League as they currently sit in fifth place in the table, but Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton can put them under pressure in the final weeks of the campaign.

Rodgers's side lacked fluency in their defeat to Villa after taking the lead through Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian has been in excellent form throughout the second half of the campaign, but appears to be the club's only attacking outlet in the absence of Daniel Sturridge.

Raheem Sterling has struggled since the start of the month to find his best form, and failed to provide a decent outlet in their loss at Wembley.

The 20-year-old's ineffective play is highlighted even further without the presence of good forward play as Liverpool have gotten very little out of Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert this season.

Jordan Henderson has been rewarded for his excellent form over the course of the campaign with a contract extension as he has stepped up in the quality of his play and as a leader for the Reds in the absence of Steven Gerrard.

The England international and Coutinho have been the driving force behind Liverpool in the second half of the season, but they need support to ensure the club end the campaign on a high note.

The Reds have been travelled well this season they have taken 25 points from their 15 matches, which gives them the fifth-best record in the division. Although they have lost six matches away from Anfield, they travel to The Hawthorns at a good time due to Baggies' recent struggles there.

Recent form: WWWLLW
Recent form (all competitions): WWLLWL

Team News

Brown Ideye of West Brom celebrates scoring the opening goal with team mates Darren Fletcher of West Brom and Craig Gardner of West Brom (C) during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City at The Hawthorns on March 14,© Getty Images

West Brom could be without defender Craig Dawson for the clash against the Reds due to a knee injury, and he is likely to be replaced by Jonas Olsson in the starting lineup.

Brown Ideye could push for a recall in place of Victor Anichebe after recovering from a knee injury. Long-term absentee Ben Foster is out of the game due to his torn ACL.

Meanwhile, Youssouf Mulumbu will serve the final match of his three-game ban after picking up a red card in his side's defeat to QPR.

Liverpool will be without Sturridge for the match at The Hawthorns due to his ongoing hip problem. However, the Reds could be boosted by the return from injury of Adam Lallana as he has recovered from a groin strain.

Lucas Leiva and Mamadou Sakho are also unlikely to feature due to thigh and hamstring problems respectively, while Jon Flanagan will remain on the sidelines with a long-term knee injury.

West Brom possible starting lineup:
Myhill, Olsson, McAuley, Lescott, Baird, Gardner, Fletcher, Yacob, Morrison, Berahino, Anichebe

Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Mignolet, Can, Lovren, Skrtel, Moreno, Markovic, Gerrard, Allen, Henderson, Sterling, Coutinho

Head To Head

Liverpool recorded a 2-1 win over the Baggies in their clash at Anfield earlier this season as goals from Lallana and Henderson were enough to edge the Reds to victory, despite a second-half strike from Berahino.

The two sides played out a 1-1 draw in their last meeting at The Hawthorns as Sturridge's strike was cancelled out by a goal from Anichebe in the second half to earn the Baggies a point.

The Reds have dominated the game over the course of history as they have claimed 68 wins to West Brom's 38, while 39 of the contests have ended in stalemates.

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We say: West Brom 0-0 Liverpool

The Reds will be desperate to atone for their loss in the semi-final clash against Villa and will likely come out of the traps quickly at The Hawthorns.

However, Sturridge's absence could play a crucial role in the game as West Brom will defend in numbers to frustrate Rodgers's men.

Without the England international, Liverpool will not be able to claim the three points as they lack the firepower from elsewhere in their side at the moment.

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Craig Gardner of West Brom celebrates scoring their second goal with Claudio Yacob of West Brom during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion at Selhurst Park on April 18, 2015
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