West Brom come to Anfield with a chance to capitalize on Liverpool's run of bad form. The Baggies are on a three game Premier League win streak that began with a win over Tottenham, and over that stretch they've netted eight goals. Meanwhile, Liverpool have gotten only one point out of their last three league matches.
When these teams met at the Hawthorns in February, Kolo Toure back passed to Victor Anichebe to gift West Brom a point. Liverpool responded to that by winning eleven games in a row. They must respond in similar fashion to their most recent setbacks.
Daniel Sturridge signed a new contract today for Liverpool, but it remains to be seen if he will play any role in this weekend's match. Assuming that his impact will be minimal at best, it'll be up to Mario Balotelli to respond well to public criticism from Brendan Rodgers that came after the loss to Basel. To help Balotelli's cause Fabio Borini could be employed as a second striker to make incisive runs behind the West Brom back line.
The Liverpool midfield remains thinned due to injuries and fatigue, and it is here that West Brom will look to exploit the hosts. The Reds have to pick up their midfield pressure to make sure that they are not overrun in the center of the pitch, which means that players besides Jordan Henderson must also play with a high defensive work rate when not in possession.
I don't want to continue to sing the same tune before every game, but Liverpool cannot more concede stupid goals against West Brom and have to defend set pieces much better. Against Everton and for much of the Basel game the back line held up pretty well which is encouraging, but they have to prove that they can defend at an acceptable level over a longer period of time.
It will take time for Liverpool to get back on track after all of the self-inflicted damage of the past couple weeks. But beating West Brom would be a big step in the right direction, and one that would give us a sweep of optimism to start the weekend rather than another dose of disappointment.