Liverpool continue their frantic pursuit of Champions League football when they travel to West Brom on Sunday at 4:30pm (UK time).
After beating Manchester United 4-2 at Old Trafford in midweek, Jurgen Klopp’s men are fifth in the table, four points adrift of Chelsea with a game in hand. They face a Baggies side whose relegation back to the Championship has already been confirmed.
Here are some things we think will happen during the game:
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West Brom predicted XI
Though West Brom are already relegated, Sam Allardyce is unbeaten in his last five Premier League fixtures against Liverpool and would love nothing more than to spoil the Reds’ European plans here. That in mind, expect the Baggies to field their strongest possible XI with the shackles loosened in the final third, at least compared to a usual Allardyce approach against a top side.
Sam Johnstone is the undisputed No.1 and will look for another strong performance to book his place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for this summer’s European Championships. In front of him, a back three of Kyle Bartley, Semi Ajayi and Dara O’Shea should give Liverpool’s front three a fearsome physical test. Branislav Ivanovic has likely played his last game for the club, though, with injury keeping him on the sidelines.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles is free to return after sitting out West Brom’s last match against his parent club, Arsenal. Alongside Conor Gallagher and Okay Yokusli, he’ll complete a midfield trio full of industry that will look to step onto Liverpool’s more technically gifted middlemen, denying them time and space on the ball. Conor Townsend and Darnell Furlong will provide width from the wing-back positions and it’ll be important that they avoid being pinned back by the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, who will look to push forward in support of their attackers at every opportunity.
Matheus Pereira provides the creative spark in the final third, dropping off into space to try and dictate play and lead counter-attacks where he can, leaving Mbaye Diagne to aerially test Liverpool’s inexperienced centre-back pairing.
Liverpool predicted XI
Though Sadio Mane was surely left on the bench against United for rotational purposes, the performances of Jota and Roberto Firmino (who bagged a brace) at Old Trafford may keep the Senegalese forward out of the XI again. Klopp played down Mane’s decision to snub a handshake from his manager at the end of the game, but it certainly won’t help his cause.
What’s more, Jota scored Liverpool’s equaliser with a lovely flick, while he also dispossessed Luke Shaw for his side’s third goal and has more than earned his starting berth on the left.
Nat Phillips was arguably the worst Liverpool performer of the night, diverting a Bruno Fernandes shot into his own goal to open the scoring while he was given the runaround by Marcus Rashford in a number of one-on-ones. However, he assisted Jota’s equaliser and made a vital goalline clearance in the second half. Besides, Liverpool remain without Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies, so Klopp will have little option to stick with him and Rhys Williams at the back. All in all, expected an unchanged XI, allowing Klopp to rotate the likes of Mane and Curtis Jones into the side against Burnley in midweek.
Liverpool to exact quick revenge on Allardyce?
It was a 1-1 draw with West Brom that started Liverpool’s slide down the Premier League table back in December. The Reds came into the Anfield clash off the back of a 7-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace, a result which put them five points clear in first at the time. But the Baggies came to Merseyside and frustrated the life out of Klopp’s men and following the 1-1 draw, the Reds failed to win their next seven Premier League home games.
Liverpool have stabilised somewhat since then and their focus is now fully on catching Chelsea in that fourth and final Champions League qualification spot.
Rather than letting West Brom settle into a defensive shape where they can frustrate Liverpool — as many sides have during the second half of this season — Klopp will want his side on the front foot, striking early to force the Baggies out.
Early goals haven’t really been Liverpool’s modus operandi this season, with the Reds netting before the 30th minute just once in the Premier League since that aforementioned 1-1 draw with this weekend’s opponents. But they did score in the 12th minute against West Brom in December and if they can repeat that here, the confidence of their 4-2 win over United might just open the floodgates, allowing them what might be a vital boost to their goal difference.
Prediction: West Brom 0-3 Liverpool (19/4 with Karamba)
Can Liverpool hold their nerve to seal Champions League spot?
“The only thing we can do to get to the Champions League is to win all our games,” Klopp told reporters after the United win. “The only thing that changed in that regard after last night is that if we win all four games then it will be [secured]. That was not the case before so that’s the only thing that changed.”
With Chelsea and Leicester out of action thanks to their FA Cup final at Wembley on Saturday, a win here would move the Reds to within a point of the former and three behind the latter with two games to go. The sides currently placed third and fourth face off again next week, meaning that, should Liverpool win both of their remaining games against Burnley and Crystal Palace, a place in next season’s Champions League is all but guaranteed.
The only outcome that would place Liverpool outside the top four is if Leicester City lose to Chelsea but win their final game of the season against Tottenham by such a margin that they re-establish a great goal difference than the Reds.
Currently, the Foxes’ GD is 21 to Liverpool’s 20, but they would incur at least a -1 by losing to Chelsea and so would have to beat Spurs by three goals or possibly more (because, in a scenario where Liverpool win all their remaining games, the lowest their GD could possibly be is 23). If Liverpool and Leicester are tied on both points and goal difference after 38 league games, the team that scored more goals finishes higher.
But Klopp cannot look too far ahead. West Brom have already frustrated Liverpool once this season and another failure to beat the Baggies here would leave them with an uphill task for Champions League qualification, reliant on those above them slipping up, while it could even open the door for West Ham to leapfrog them into fifth.
Premier League top-four odds with Karamba…
- Chelsea: 4/11
- Leicester: 4/9
- Liverpool: 1/2
- West Ham: 33/1
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