Brendan Rodgers’ first game as Liverpool manager is a trip to the Hawthorns to take on former Reds assistant Steve Clarke, who has replaced England manager Roy Hodgson at West Brom. The Baggies over-achieved under Hodgson last season and Clarke will be looking to replicate that form.
West Brom finished 10th under Hodgson, but their home form was disappointing. The 5-1 away victory at Wolves, coupled with the relegation of their Black Country rivals, meant that last season was very positive for Albion fans. There may be questions over Clarke’s managerial qualities, with this West Brom job being his first full time position. Hodgson’s tactical nous may also have allowed a squad to punch above their weight, but confidence will be high following a second consecutive mid-table finish.
Summer redevelopment saw the addition of two new strikers in Markus Rosenberg from Werder Bremen and Romelu Lukaku on loan from Chelsea. Ben Foster has made his move from Birmingham City permanent and Clarke has brought in Claudio Yacob from Racing Club and Yassine El Ghanassy from Gent on loan. The West Brom squad is predominantly Hodgson’s and Clarke will just look to maintain or improve their 10th placed finish.
Liverpool had troubles last season with their league form being a major problem as the Reds struggled to be consistent at home. Difficulty scoring in the league was also met by Luis Suarez’s racism affair that threatened to derail the whole campaign. Kenny Dalglish was criticised for the way he handled the issue and after a disappointing season, the Scotsman was dismissed by the club. John W. Henry earmarked Roberto Martinez, but after that pursuit failed, Brendan Rodgers was brought in to revitalise the club with the aim of reaching the top four.
To do that, Rodgers has to address the problems with goals. Suarez looked sharp playing for Uruguay in the Olympics and the former Swansea boss has added to his front line with Fabio Borini from Roma. Rodgers’ free flowing football in South Wales last season brought admiration and Liverpool fans want to see the same play at Anfield. Joe Allen has been signed from Rodgers’ former side to add some creativity to the midfield, but it will be interesting to see whether he lives up to the £15m price. Old faces have left the club, such as Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy, so the emphasis is on the new style in an attempt to fire Liverpool back to former glory.