The Hanging Curveball: Liverpool v. West Brom

Liverpool will never get a better chance to be a team in the top half.

Does it still count if you beat a team that will soon be sliding out of the top half of the table? We'll find out, but I bet the answer is something along the lines of we'll take it.

I'm not sure how this match stayed on Monday night with Liverpool due in St. Petersburg not three days later. I suppose we'll find out just how seriously Brendan Rodgers is taking that European match by how strong a lineup he fields against the Baggies.

Sadly, Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson got a full 90 in a useless match against a pretty uninterested Brazil, and Johnson looked to have a knock at the end of it. Haven't seen any of it. Rodgers has also sounded pretty pessimistic about Daniel Sturridge shaking off what was ailing him at the end of the City match, so he's a doubt. Which is a shame, because with him cup-tied in Europa League, you can be sure Rodgers wanted to get him out in this.

With the international in mind (Suarez also played for Uruguay), you'd like to think that Liverpool could get away with resting both The Captain and El Pistolero for this one and have them worry about the trip to Russia -- but that's just me, I'd like to see Liverpool take a full swing in Europe. But we all know that won't be the case, because if Gerrard misses a league match than Rodgers's house catches fire or something.

So expect to see the full strength lineup, with Carragher ahead of Skrtel and Borini/Sterling coming in for Sturridge, leaving Suarez to go through the middle.

West Brom are in utter freefall. Or market correction, whichever you'd like to call it. They haven't taken a win in any of their last eight matches, and have only won two of their last 14 (two of those were two attempts at a 3rd round FA Cup tie which they lost on the replay to QPR). The problem has been defense, as they've kept one clean sheet since the beginning of November. And that was to the cockeyed West Ham, so Liverpool should be able to find a goal or two. At least you'd hope.

They've also had the straight-up hilarious Peter Odemwingie fiasco, as their most talented player tried to force a move to a much worse club, seemingly without telling anyone. Whether he features or not probably depends on the sense of humor of Steve Clarke.

Still, there's some threat if you want it. Romelu Lukaku is just the sort of physical striker that has given Liverpool the runs this season. Though Carragher's inclusion is probably to combat just that. Zoltan Gera is always capable of something stupid out of the blue, just as he was on the opening day of the season (luckily he's out long term). James Morrison can poach something when you're not looking. They'll also be hurt by Mulumbu, who has been a gallstone in midfield for Liverpool before, being out with injury.

Y'know, I don't know if the league season is already shot. There's a feeling that it might be. It certainly will be if Liverpool don't clean up at home, and this is a match begging to be put away and early. But Liverpool have found ways to barf it up to teams in poor form before. If they're going to make anything of what's left, a serious run of wins is needed. You couldn't ask for a curveball to come up more spinning than this one. Put it over the fence, please.

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