If Monday night was a game where Liverpool were restricted to passing the ball around and probing for openings against a cautious Manchester United side, Saturday won’t be any easier considering the Reds will face a West Brom side who have conceded just eight goals this season.
Liverpool tried to beat a stubborn United defence but failed having mustered only two shots on target despite dominating possession. In truth, it’s hard playing a side who have come to take a point first and then, possibly, go for the bonus three points.
The game was like the money-breaking battle between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. Many had to settle for a night that was remembered for the monetary records rather than the teeming quality of jabs and hooks. The anticipation for the bout was incredible and it turned out to be an average in the end. The clash on Monday was on similar lines.
Liverpool’s task was made much harder by the absence of Gini Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana, two players who were involved heavily in a brilliant run last month. The latter even picked up the player of the month award which was a testament to his incredible form.
Come to think of it now, West Brom could provide a greater threat to Liverpool than Manchester United. United had the quality, but Paul Pogba’s rather underwhelming start meant he was anything but oozing with confidence. Zlatan Ibrahimović’s mini goal drought and the lack of pace meant he wasn’t the most potent of weapons against Liverpool’s high pressing. United were without Juan Mata and Anthony Martial, perhaps their version of Wijnaldum and Lallana scenario as the two have been impressive. Mata’s exclusion was tactical though, as Jose clearly knew Herrera and Young could do a better defensive job.
West Brom, on the other hand, have a combination of pace and power up front now. Salomon Rondon plays as the lone striker up front and he is someone who can trouble defenders not only with his strength and aerial prowess, but also with his burst of speed. The tall South-American is quick and his long strides will be useful on the counter when West Brom travel to Anfield. On the flanks, James McClean and Matt Philips can provide the pace.
With a target man like Rondon in the attack, the midfield duo of Claudio Yacob and Darren Fletcher can easily negate Liverpool’s high pressing by often going long. And that’s just the start of it. We haven’t even discussed the man in form and summer signing Nacer Chadli who has become a bit of a revelation in the West Midlands at the moment.
The Belgian has scored four times and provided two assists already and has played a part in more than half the goals scored by the club so far this season. Those are staggering numbers and Klopp can’t afford to not have special plans for the attacker.
Although Monday night was a downer for Liverpool, they did manage to keep their first cleansheet and that’ll give the defence some confidence as they’ll be up against a pretty potent looking attack on paper even though they have managed a paltry number of goals so far on the pitch.
Pulis’ tactics, straight out of the Charles Hughes encyclopaedia, is exactly the type of football the Liverpool fans abhor as they are smart enough to realise that it’s one possible way of beating the Reds. It’s going to be a similar game like the one on Monday, so the team’s creative ability will be pushed to their limits.