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And Here...We....Go: West Brom v. Liverpool Preview

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Baggie_medium Vs. Liverbird_right_medium

KICKOFF: Sat. 10am EST, 3pm BST
TV: FSC in the States

God it feels good to write one of these again. In some ways it feels like it's been the longest summer ever, with the Euros and a new manager and the reported changes that never happened and the constant gossip and what seemed like an interminable preseason. But it's over now, the real stuff begins. And oh look, it's a former Liverpool coach to deal with. Because that's gone so well in the past with West Brom for the Reds.

While some may fear what Steve Clarke can send out his charges to do against personnel he knows very well, I wouldn't put too much stock in it. This is a new system and new tactics, and though he may know the deficiencies of some, he won't know how they're deployed just yet. And you never know how an assistant moving to the top job will ever go. It's 50-50, as Steve McLaren and Brian Kidd just might tell you.

First, for Liverpool. We pretty much saw what the first team will look like in the 2nd leg against Gomel. Reina in goal, and Enrique-Skrtel-Agger-Johnson across the backline. There will be no thought of Thursday's qualifier against Hearts, as Rodgers will be desperate to kick the league off with a win. The only question in the lineup is whether Joe Allen is tossed right in with limited training, and if he's not which one of Henderson or Shelvey will be in there instead. Both are somewhat awkward fits behind an advanced Gerrard, but that doesn't mean either can't do a job there. If it's Henderson, he might even rotate with Gerrard or just jump up with him and leave Lucas on his own behind, which he can handle. Up front we know it'll be Downing-Suarez-Borini. If Carroll were favored he would still be a question after a midweek international. But he's not, so we know the answer here.

With that lineup, Liverpool might look more like the 4-2-2-2 that we saw against Gomel than the preferred 4-3-3 that we know Rodgers brings. Downing won't be as pushed up as Suarez and Borini with, more on on the same level with the attacking Gerrard, while Henderson/Shelvey/Allen are more in line with Lucas. Maybe it could even be a 4-1-4-1 or a 4-2-3-1, depending how deep Borini gets. We'll just have to see.

As for West Brom, Clarke has made some changes for sure. The big name you'll recognize is Lukaku on loan from Chelsea. He was definitely donkey-like last season in limited opportunities with Chelsea, but that'll happen when you're that size and only 18. Still every chance he could be a real monster. He scored in midweek with Belgium against Holland, and we know that Skrtel sometimes can have a hard time with brutish forwards. If he starts, it could be a problem.

Peter Odemwingie has already been a problem, and will be so again. Hopefully he stays on the left of the Baggies' midfield where Johnson is better equipped to handle him than Enrique on the other side. Clarke has strengthened the portion of the team that tries to keep goals out with the addition of Argentine holding midfielder Yacob, and he will make his debut tomorrow. Along with Mulumbu, that could be pretty imposing, and maybe calls for another central midfielder to join Gerrard in joining the attack consistently. Zoltan Gera is another who can be dangerous behind the forward, but you don't need me to tell you that.

Last season came apart at the seams not because of what the Reds did against the teams ahead of them, but the ones they should have been beating easily. Teams like West Brom, who they lost to at Anfield when they'd given up on the league season last term. Have to put that right if they're going to surpass our expectations. And with City and Arsenal waiting behind this, a win is pretty much paramount.

You ready for this?

I promise to have the gamethread up at the right time this time, and I'll be manning the Twitter feed during the match.