It is, undeniably, a distraction. On Tuesday we take on Roma in the first leg of our Champions League semi-final, and everyone associated with the club – from the players and fans to the manager and his coaching staff – would be telling a fib if they said that wasn’t on their mind.
And that, of course, makes Saturday’s trip to the Hawthorns to take on West Brom a rather more difficult affair than it need be. The Baggies were back to somewhere near their physical, confrontational best against Manchester United last week, and they must not be treated lightly.
But as Jurgen Klopp proved in his team selection for the Merseyside derby against Everton a couple of weeks ago, he has very little interest in sentimental selections. He made a number of changes for that match ahead of our Champions League quarter-final date with Manchester City, and as such we have to expect he will do the same on Saturday.
At least we can head to the West Midlands in good heart after another fantastic showing last time out against Bournemouth. Goals from Salah, Mane and Firmino – who else? – were enough to secure a 3-0 victory. We also passed through the 120-mark for goals scored in all competitions this season; a staggering figure, and we’re not finished yet.
Three points on Saturday is a necessity, really. Manchester United are in FA Cup action, and so we can close the gap to just one point with victory. It won’t be easy, and plenty will be expected from our rotated side, but the chance to close the gap to second is simply too good to miss.
Liverpool Team News
To some extent, the Liverpool team is picking itself at present. With Joel Matip, Emre Can and Adam Lallana out quite possibly for the rest of the season, and injuries to Joe Gomez, Nathaniel Clyne and Dejan Lovren possibly keeping them out of Saturday’s game, Klopp – with one eye on the Roma game – will have a clear starting eleven in mind.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has been so good lately, will continue at right back, while Ragnar Klavan may partner Virgil van Dijk in the middle. The desire to continue with in-form left back Andy Robertson will be strong, but he may well be rested with Alberto Moreno deputising.
The midfield three presents a conundrum. How will Klopp want to line up against Roma? It’s possible that he will want Henderson, Milner and Oxlade-Chamberlain in there for that fixture, so expect Gigi Wijnaldum to start here.
Klopp is known to be a big admirer of Dominic Solanke, so he may get the nod ahead of Bobby Firmino who won’t be risked against the Baggies’ ‘exuberant’ defenders who like a tackle. Mo Salah and Sadio Mane may start, but the manager will be looking to give them the hook as soon – or if – his side are comfortably in the lead.
West Brom Form
West Brom’s 1-0 win over Manchester United last time out was just their fourth victory of the campaign; a tell-tale sign of their mediocrity this term.
But maybe these players are going to show signs of life under caretaker boss Darren Moore; himself a no-nonsense footballer back in his playing days.
The Baggies have certainly shown plenty of fight in his two games so far – the win over United and a 1-1 draw with Swansea, and so we can expect a thorough examination on Saturday.
And never underestimate, at this time of the season, how the players’ minds work. With relegation to the Championship all but guaranteed, many in blue-and-white will be striving to secure a top-flight contract elsewhere; hence their improved performance levels!
West Brom vs Liverpool Betting Tips
Given West Brom’s apparent renaissance lately, and the possibility that Klopp will name a more changed side than the one we have intimated above, it would be churlish to suggest that Liverpool are good value here at 1/2.
We would expect them to win the match, of course, but it likely to be a tighter affair than the odds imply.
West Brom are generally available at 5/1, which means there’s value to be had in the handicap markets: take the Baggies with a +1.25 Asian handicap at 14/19.
There is no doubting Liverpool’s ability to put the ball in the net, and there is every chance that West Brom’s aerial prowess at set pieces could pay dividends – especially if Lovren is absent. So take Both Teams to Score at 4/5.