1st February 2014
West Bromwich are still winless under new boss Pepe Mel and there will be no better time than now to start winning with the team slowly but steadily slipping into the danger zone. Nevertheless, this is clearly not the right moment to be facing top 4 hopefuls Liverpool, who arrive at the Hawthorns on the back of a 4-0 triumph in the Merseyside derby.
While the Baggies did well to establish themselves as a genuine mid table side in the Premiership, it is becoming clear they won’t be able to avoid a relegation tussle this time out. Despite signing quite a few players in the summer, West Brom have struggled to play to their potential, with the lack of recognized striker proving to be a major issue. The Baggies surprisingly decided to rely on veteran striker Nicolas Anelka, who has so far caused more harm than good, while one of England’s hottest prospects Saido Berahino continues to be overlooked as new boss Pepe Mel does not seem to be a big fan of the England Under-21 international. As a result, the Hawthorns outfit continue to struggle on all fronts, with midweek’s 4-3 defeat to local rivals Aston Villa likely to serve as a major blow to the players’ confidence given that West Brom lost the match after squandering a two-goal lead. And while the Baggies were expected to strengthen heavily in January, they could only attract Espanyol back-up forward Thievy Bifouma, probably thinking that several average strikers in the squad can compensate for the lack of a true goalscorer. And their attacking problems look likely to continue with Nicolas Anelka ruled out through a knee problem and Stephane Sessegnon a major doubt.
While it appears Liverpool will not be able to keep up with Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea, the Reds are doing brilliantly to improve their top 4 chances despite the serious lack of strength in depth. This is exactly why Brendan Rodgers was keen on luring Ukraine star Yevhen Konoplyanka to Anfield, although he was unlucky not to get his man with the deal falling through at the last minute. Nevertheless, even with quite a few important players on the sidelines, Liverpool continue to prove they have become a real force to be reckoned with, and they won’t get many bigger boosts this season than midweek’s 4-0 hammering of arch rivals Everton. It remains to be seen if the Reds will be able to keep the rich vein of form with same players being used in every single match, but there should still be plenty of gas left in the tank. The match against out-of-sorts West Brom will seem like a perfect opportunity to record the fifth away win and possibly even revive their title bid, considering the fact that Manchester City and Chelsea square off on Monday. The visitors should have Joe Allen back from a hamstring problem, but Jose Enrique, Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger and Mamadou Sakho are out injured.
The lack of confidence is seriously affecting West Bromwich at the moment and they certainly don’t look like the team that can stop in-form Liverpool in their tracks. The Reds boast a truly lethal attack now that both Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard have returned into action and I can see them winning at the Hawthorns.
Verdict: Away win Liverpool (2)
Best Odds: 2/3
Bookmaker: William Hill