Saturday, October 29, 2011

Match Preview: West Brom v Liverpool

Both parties would probably prefer to move on from the past, but there will be an inevitable degree of focus upon another Roy Hodgson reunion with Liverpool at West Brom on Saturday evening.

It has been almost nine months since the 64-year-old was sacked at Anfield following a woefully unsuccessful half-a-year in charge of the five-time kings of Europe and much has changed in that time.

Kenny Dalglish is now Liverpool's boss having been promoted from an ambassadorial role and a position working with the club's Academy for a second spell as manager in the wake of Hodgson's departure.

The Kop idol was a constant issue during Hodgson's reign, with it widely recognized most fans would have preferred the Scot to have replaced former boss Rafa Benitez in the summer of 2010.

Dalglish was ultimately appointed, but Hodgson has already got one over on his predecessor after West Brom defeated Liverpool 2-1 at The Hawthorns in April, when two Chris Brunt penalties gave the Baggies a first win over the Merseysiders in 30 years.

Hodgson was characteristically too much of a gentleman to revel in a win against a club which had made him unemployed just 12 weeks previously and instead the focus was upon a success which moved West Brom further clear of relegation.

It was Hodgson's fifth game unbeaten since taking over at The Hawthorns and he will hope for more of the same this season having built a recent run of four Premier League matches without defeat, including back-to-back Midlands derby wins.

Liverpool will also have other concerns away from Hodgson, as Dalglish attempts to find a cure to his side's developing trend for frustrating draws which was epitomized in last weekend's evening match against Norwich.

West Brom will be without striker Shane Long after the Republic of Ireland international was ruled out for six weeks with the knee injury suffered during last weekend's win over Aston Villa.

Somen Tchoyi and Simon Cox will be vying to partner Peter Odemwingie up front.

Midfielders Paul Scharner and Graham Dorrans (both knee) and winger Jerome Thomas (foot) are expected to be fit.

Liverpool are to assess the fitness of star striker Luis Suarez after the Uruguayan sustained a 'little knock' in the midweek Carling Cup win over Stoke.

If fit, the Copa America winner could be partnered by Andy Carroll in attack after the £35million man gave an indication he is finding some sort of form at the Britannia Stadium.

Midfielder Lucas Leiva is available again after missing the draw with Norwich through suspension, but Jay Spearing will be disappointed to drop out after doing well against Stoke.

Daniel Agger is likely to play in the centre of defence after the Dane started his first match in just over a month in midweek following his recovery from a rib injury.

Possible starting XIs:

West Brom: Foster, Reid, Olsson, McAuley, Jones, Brunt, Mulumbu, Scharner, Thomas, Tchoyi, Odemwingie.

Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Agger, Carragher, Enrique, Lucas, Adam, Downing, Gerrard, Kuyt, Suarez.

Hodgson Wary Of Reds

West Brom manager Roy Hodgson admits his side is underdogs against his former club Liverpool on Saturday.

The Baggies are unbeaten in their last four games and picked up a good win on the road to Aston Villas last weekend.

Despite playing in front of a home crowd at the Hawthorns, the 64-year old is weary of the threat from the Reds.

"Liverpool has done very well this season."

He said. "They have spent quite wisely and brought some very good players into the club.”

Their team is much stronger than it has been in awhile.

We have to be aware that we won't be favourites going into the game, despite playing at home.

"If we are to get anything from the game we have to play at our highest level.”

In our favour is the fact that for the last four or five games we haven't been playing too badly ourselves and we also believe we have good players."

Duo Set For Reds Landmark

Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel could both notch up a century of league appearances for Liverpool if they feature in Saturday's trip to West Brom.

Here are the rest of the facts and stats:

The Reds have drawn the last two league games (Manchester United and Norwich). The last time they shared the spoils in three successive matches was in January 2009 while the last trio of consecutive 1-1 league draws for Liverpool came in December 1988.

At West Brom: Liverpool 23 wins, West Brom 20 wins, 16 draws.

Overall: Liverpool 56 wins, West Brom 29 wins, 33 draws.

Last season Albion won this fixture 2-1. After Martin Skrtel had opened the scoring after 50 minutes the hosts hit back to win the game courtesy of two Chris Brunt penalties on 62 and 89.

Brunt's goals were the first scored by West Brom against Liverpool in the Premier League in the 10th clash. The Reds in those meetings have hit the net 26 times.

Liverpool had shaded the earlier meeting at Anfield thanks to a single Fernando Torres goal.

The Reds have an excellent record at the Hawthorns, winning eight of the last nine fixtures scoring 26 and conceding four. 23 have those goals have come in the last seven visits.

In the Barclays Premier League the clubs have met 10 times with Liverpool winning nine and losing one.

Liverpool has lost only two of the last 16 visits.

The last time these sides played out a goalless draw in the West Midlands was in November 1968.

The 6-0 victory on this ground in April 2003 is Liverpool's biggest ever league win over Albion.

Michael Owen's four-goal haul in April 2003 is the last hat-trick scored by a Liverpool player against the Baggies. John Wark in a 5-0 win in March 1985 is the only other to achieve the feat for the Reds on this ground.

Prior to last season's Hawthorns clash the Reds had kept 9 successive clean sheets against West Brom in the league since 1986.

Andy Carroll scored twice for Newcastle on this ground two seasons ago - but Newcastle lost the FA Cup tie 4-2.

Liverpool go into this game on the back of an unbeaten six game run in all competitions, which along with Tottenham is the longest currently of any top-flight team.

Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel could both make their 100th Premier League appearance if selected.

A win for Liverpool will see them reach 1,300 Premier League points.

If they score three goals they will reach 50 in the league since Kenny returned as manager in January (this is his 28th league game).

Albion's win here last season ended a run of 12 successive league defeats home and away. In those 12 games they had scored two goals and conceded 36.

It was their first home win over Liverpool in 10 games since a 2-0 win in February 1981 and is their only success in the last 20 meetings at the Hawthorns and Anfield.

The Baggies are looking to record back-to-back home league wins over Liverpool for the first time since November 1966.

The Baggies finished last season with their best Premier League finish (11th) - this after being 17th when Roy Hodgson took over in February.

Roy Hodgson was in charge of Liverpool for 191 days - a reign which took in 31 games of which the Reds won 13. In the Premier League he presided over seven wins in his 20 games.

His first league victory as Reds boss came against his current employers at Anfield in August 2010.

From taking over with a dozen games of last season remaining Albion lost only twice under Hodgson - to Chelsea and Wolves.

They avoided relegation from the Premier League for only the second time.

His record as West Brom manager in the league currently stands at eight wins and six defeats from his 21 games.

Last season Albion set an unwanted Premier League record of going 34 games without keeping a clean sheet. The sequence ended with a 1-0 home win over Everton in their penultimate game.

Already this season they have kept more (three) than they did in the whole of last season.

They have beaten Liverpool only twice in the last 33 league meetings and in that time they have scored only 13 goals.

The only League hat-tricks scored by West Brom against Liverpool came in 1936 and 1938 and were scored by the same man - W.G.Richardson.

James Morrison was sent off at Anfield last season Somen Tchoyi made his Baggies debut in that game.

Last season Chris Brunt became only the third player to score 2 penalties in a Premier League game against the Reds. The others were Matt Le Tissier (Southampton) in February 1994 and Ruud van Nistelrooy at Old Trafford in April 2003.

Albion have scored only two of their last six penalties. Peter Odemwingie and Chris Brunt have each taken three and scored only one of them. Brunt missed a spot-kick at Villa Park last week.

In that game Hodgson's men came from behind to win 2-1 with goals from Jonas Olsson and Paul Scharner. It was their first league win at Villa Park since 1979.

The four games at the Hawthorns this season have produced only six goals with Albion scoring three. They have beaten Wolves, drawn with Fulham and lost to Manchester United and Stoke.

After scoring just three times in the opening six league games they have netted twice in each of the last three fixtures, taking seven points in the process.

Albion are unbeaten in the last four games since going out of the League Cup at Everton last month.

They have 11 points from their opening nine games so far - four points fewer than at the same stage last season.

The Baggies are looking a third successive home league clean sheet in the top-flight for the first time since December 2005.

West Brom along with QPR, Doncaster and Aldershot (all with three) have scored fewer league goals at home this season than any other team in England.

Of Albion's nine league goals this season five have been scored in the opening eight minutes of games.

This will be Albion's 100th Premier League game at the Hawthorns. They have won 30, drawn 25 and lost 44.

Current league positions:

Liverpool: Pld 9 Won 4 Drawn 3 Lost 2 Goals For 12 Against 10 Points 15 Position: 6th

West Brom: Pld 9 Won 3 Drawn 2 Lost 4 Goals For 9 Against 11 Points 11 Position: 12th

Leading scorers this season (league in brackets):

Liverpool: Suarez 7 (4), Bellamy 2 (1), Carroll 2 (1), Adam 1 (1), Gerrard 1 (1), Henderson 1 (1), Kuyt 1 (0), Maxi 1 (0), Skrtel 1 (1), own goals 2 (2).

West Brom: Long 3 (3), Brunt 2 (1), Fortune 2 (0), Odemwingie 2 (2), Cox 1 (0), Morrison 1 (1), Olsson 1 (1), Scharner 1 (1), Thomas 1 (0).

Gerrard And Suarez Injury Latest

Kenny Dalglish has given us an update on the injury situation at Liverpool ahead of the West Brom game on Saturday.

The biggest concern is Luis Suarez who picked up a knock against Stoke in the Carling Cup but Dalglish said they will wait until the last minute to see if Suarez is fit enough to play on the weekend.

Dalglish said, “He’s had a bit of treatment so we’ll see how is. He’s had a tough time recently, so we’ll see how he is on Saturday.”

Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson did not feature during the week against Stoke and the boss said that he was resting them and that they are both fit to take on West Brom as they are both just coming back from long term injuries.

Dalglish said, “It’s just part of the course of sensibility, I think, with both him (Gerrard) and Glen (Johnson). There’s nothing wrong. They both could have played if they had to play. It was our choice.”

Comolli Personally Scouts Big-Fee Argentine

Damien Comolli has personally led a convoy with two scouts to watch Fabricio Coloccini in action, according to the Daily Mirror, with the Argentine high on Liverpool’s transfer wish list for January.

Kenny Dalgilsh has already purchased Andy Carroll and Jose Enrique from Newcastle, and with Enrique’s connections to Coloccini, Dalglish and Comolli are both said to be hoping that a deal can go through in the next transfer window.

Alan Pardew has admitted that Coloccini has stalled on contract talks with the Toon, and Liverpool are closely monitoring the situation. And with Jamie Carragher pushing the other side of 30, Comolli is hoping to find a back up defender to add depth to the Reds’ squad.

Pardew won’t let Coloccini go to Liverpool on the cheap, with the Newcastle manager most likely demanding a ‘big fee’ for the star, the paper claims.

And with Coloccini’s experience in the Barclays Premier League, the 29-year-old could move into the Liverpool squad very quickly, and play off Carroll and Enrique, with whom he already has chemistry on the field.

Dalglish's Delight At Jose Form

Kenny Dalglish today reiterated his delight at the form of Jose Enrique following suggestions the defender has proved the signing of the summer.

The Spanish full-back has made a seamless transition to life at Anfield in his nine appearances so far following an August transfer from Newcastle United.

And quizzed by journalists on suggestions Enrique was the best buy of any club in the Barclays Premier League during the summer transfer window, Dalglish replied: "We're just delighted to have him. He's not disappointed us in any way, shape or form.

"If other people have an opinion that's fine, but we're the ones who had to make the choice on whether to sign him or not.

"We did and we're pleased we did sign him. He's done really well for us."

Dalglish Demands Swift Resolution In Suarez-Evra Racism Row

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has accused the Football Association of having a disruptive influence, due to its prolonged delay resolving Patrice Evra’s racism claims.

A fortnight on from Luis Suárez’s contentious bust-up with the Manchester United defender, the Liverpool striker, who was accused by Evra of sustained racial abuse, has still not been asked to provide his version of events.

Dalglish says if the accusations are unfounded, which Liverpool insist they are, Evra should face sanctions for tarnishing Suárez’s reputation.

Having already spoken to Evra, the FA is assessing what further course of action, if any, will be required as they continue with what they are calling a ‘thorough process’.

It was expected Suárez would meet FA officials this week, but no decision has yet been taken about whether he has any case to answer.

From the moment the accusations were made, the FA was acutely aware of not only of the sensitive nature of the issue, but also the fraught relations between Liverpool and Manchester United.

They have sought to proceed delicately, but on the back of the more recent controversy surrounding John Terry and Anton Ferdinand, pressure is now mounting for the authorities to find a swift resolution.

Liverpool will certainly be noting the speed with which the England captain is dealt with compared to their own player, who they are eager to be exonerated as soon as possible.

“The quicker these issues are dealt with, the better it is for everybody,” said Dalglish. “It does not matter if it takes two months, Luis has the full support of everybody. But the longer it goes on, the more disruptive it is. I don’t think it really helps anybody.

“If it is as clear-cut an accusation as everybody says it is, then let’s get it dealt with. And let’s make sure the person who is in the wrong gets punished. The FA has not spoken to anybody here. It’s strange, isn’t it?”

Despite a flurry of recent cases where high-profile players have been accused of racist abuse, Dalglish does not believe the English game has been tainted.

“Whoever the guilty party is; the person who said it or the accuser, should get their due punishment,” he said. So we’ll look forward to our case coming to a conclusion. For me, I don’t see racism, as far as this club is concerned anyway, apparent in any way, shape or form. It has to be proved before you accuse. I don’t think it’s prevalent in the game here and certainly not at this club. We’ve got a case going on ourselves which seems to be dragging its feet. We’d rather have it done and dusted.”

Dalglish is also seething that Suárez has been embroiled in a debate about diving, especially since Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was one of those who publicly accused him of going to ground too easily.

The Liverpool manager is concerned Suárez will receive unfavourable treatment if officials believe what he says are scurrilous observations.

Dalglish said: “Every player needs some form of protection and we don’t expect any player to be treated any differently from any other person. But then he should not be suffering either because somebody comes out and makes an outrageous statement that maybe influences referees.

“He just wants to be treated exactly the same as every one of our players. He does not want any favours but he doesn’t want to be pre-judged either. The wee man just gets up and gets on with it. He accepts he is going to get kicked and it does not worry him.”

Dalglish And Wenger Deny Racism Problems

Two top Premier League managers have denied racism is a problem in English football following two alleged incidents this month.

In the wake of accusations made against Liverpool's Luis Suarez and Chelsea and England captain John Terry, both Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish and Arsenal's Arsene Wenger on Friday said racism was not widespread.

Dalglish told reporters: "I don't think it is prevalent in the game here and it certainly isn't at this football club."

Wenger said: "I do not think that, in sport, racism is basically a problem because you are rewarded on merit. However, in society I still think there is some job to do and we are not at the end of it.

"But in sport, overall, I don't think it is a problem."

Dalglish added that he hoped the case against Uruguayan striker Suarez, following allegations that he racially abused Manchester United's French defender Patrice Evra, will be concluded swiftly.

He said: "For me, I don't see racism as far as this football club is concerned, apparent in any way, shape or form. We have got a case going on ourselves which seems to be dragging its feet.

"We would rather have it done and dusted, out in the open, and whoever is the guilty party, whether it's the person who said it or the accuser, get their due punishment.

"We look forward to the case coming to a conclusion."