Champions League hopefuls Liverpool host West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City this week, as Brendan Rodgers’ side look to continue their climb up the Premier League table. Much has been made of the Reds’ inability to triumph over sides in the top half of the league so far this campaign, but the next six days will provide the Anfield outfit with the perfect opportunity to put that unwanted record to bed – twice.
West Brom are the side directly below Liverpool at present, while the Swans are one place above their upcoming opponents. Two wins on the spin would see the Reds keep the pressure on the likes of Merseyside rivals Everton and Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, while dampening the spirits of both West Brom and Swansea, who are also chasing European football. Therefore, this week is crucial for Liverpool.
But, despite picking up impressive draws in their most recent fixtures against Manchester City and Arsenal, the Reds will be cautious when coming up against the Baggies. With five defeats and a draw in their last six games, West Brom’s form has certainly deteriorated in recent weeks. However, Steve Clarke’s side were the first to crush the expectation of Liverpool’s supporters this campaign, when they inflicted a painful 3-1 defeat on the Reds in the opening day clash at the Hawthorns. Could West Brom provide Rodgers’ men with a reality check once again?
Swansea, too, have had the upper hand over Liverpool this term. Michael Laudrup’s entertainers dumped the holders out of the League Cup with a 3-1 victory at Anfield in October – a competition the Welsh side have now reached the final of – while the Merseysiders were unable to break them down at the Liberty Stadium in the league in November. Two wins this week would certainly help Liverpool’s cause, but achieving back-to-back positive results will be difficult.
Life will not be made any easier for Rodgers if Daniel Sturridge is unavailable through injury. The in-form striker missed England’s victory over Brazil in a friendly at Wembley last week and may not be fit enough to face the Baggies on Monday night. With four goals in his first six games for Liverpool, Sturridge’s start to life on Merseyside has been impressive. To lose his services at such crucial period in the Reds’ season could hurt them.
However, if the Englishman is unable to recover, then Liverpool still have prized duo Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez to fall back on – the pair have scored 15 goals between them in the last 11 games. If the Reds are to have any chance of launching a late bid to finish in the top four, then the trio of Gerrard, Suarez and Sturridge will have to keep up their form for the remainder of the campaign.
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