Another week goes by and we’re back to reality after the euphoria of the win against Man United. A lot of us had decided to get our hopes up a bit for Liverpool.
Coutinho out, Mane out, Lallana out and Liverpool’s defence doing its best impression of the Poseidon, we had secretly hoped for a result. With the news that Dejan Lovren was withdrawn shortly before kick-off with a ‘knock’, our hopes got even better.
Alas, they weren’t to be.
After valiantly holding Liverpool out for the best part of 50 minutes, we were struck by yet another goal caused by us attempting to clear the ball.
This time the victim was Tommy Smith who provided an almost inch-perfect assist to the waiting Daniel Sturridge at the back post who calmly put the ball past Jonas Lossl.
After that the floodgates were open and it was only a matter of time before Liverpool carved us open again. This was despite Lossl saving a penalty from Mohamed Salah as well. Further goals arrived from Roberto Firmino and Giorgio Wijnaldum who sealed the win.
Despite this, I wasn’t downhearted at all.
When on-song, Liverpool’s forward line can tear any defence apart and there is no shame in losing 3-0 at Anfield.
Despite the inevitable hoo-haa around Klopp and Wagner, attention will now turn to the more important game back on home soil against West Bromwich Albion.
Despite West Brom’s poor fun of form of late, we cannot expect this to be an easy game with Tony Pulis in charge.
The manager in charge of the Brummies has an infamous marmite-like reputation with even more infamous dressing-room antics involving dropped towels and head butts.
However, the hallmarks of a Tony Pulis side; defensive solidity, well-organised, aggressiveness and a strong core of leaders are what have made him thrive in the Premier League, bringing a hard-nosed edge to every one of his sides.
Players like Ryan Shawcross, Jon Walters, Robert Huth, Gareth McAuley, Darren Fletcher and Charlie Adam have laid the foundation for his teams and provided a brutishness that has either bulldozed through teams or over them when they resort to long balls.
We can debate the beauty of these tactics till the cows come home but the fact is that they are effective and has allowed him to survive in the Premier League for so long. He is a football club owner’s de facto man for survival.
Much like Sam Allardyce became known as a relegation firefighter, so has Pulis developed a well-renowned reputation for saving teams from certain oblivion, take Crystal Palace for example when he took over.
If we are to win on Saturday, we must match West Brom’s fight, aggressiveness and desire to win but also marry that as usual with a clinical streak in front of goal.
They will not give us many chances and we must exploit any weakness they show in defence to get a result, particularly if they play three centre-backs in McAuley, Dawson and Evans.
As for Town, we are still sweating on the fitness of striker Steve Mounié with his match fitness still not at Wagner’s required level so expect to see a 15 minute cameo from him towards the end of the game if Lolo is tiring.
Tom Ince is STILL looking for his first goal in town colours, with the winger noticeably trying too hard to get that breakthrough which is understandable.
I expect the trio of Hogg, Williams and Mooy to retain their place on Saturday against a team like West Brom with Hogg and William’s combative playing styles vital to winning the battles that will pocket the match and decide the outcome.
Laurent Depoitre vs Gareth McAuley
With Depoitre facing up to three centre-backs on Saturday, he will have his work cut out stretching them all and demonstrating that he can be a menace as well.
You can be sure he will know he’s been in a battle come full-time and Gareth McAuley will most likely be tasked with keeping him quiet.
The centre-back has been a club stalwart, a revelation in his position for consistency and formed one part of the triumvirate goal-threat that comes from West Brom’s central defenders.
Town will have to give Lolo the required service on Saturday whilst ensuring they protect their own goal equally as fiercely from McAuley who was West Brom’s top scorer last season.
Zanka vs Solomon Rondon
As the more physically imposing of our centre-halves, Zanka will be tasked with keeping Solomon Rondon quiet on Saturday.
Much maligned during his debut season in the Premier League, Rondon has improved remarkably since arriving at the Hawthorns but it’s safe to say we still have not seen the best of him so far this season.
Rondon will be hoping he can get the better of Zanka on Saturday and will probably be relishing the thought of a physical battle much more than dealing with the electric pace of Liverpool’s clutch of forward players last week.
Christopher Schindler vs Jay Rodriguez
Christopher Schindler has a habit for receiving Man of the Match Awards and he picked up another against Manchester United.
He will be hoping for a similar performance at the John Smith Stadium on Saturday and to do that, he will have to contain the threat of Jay Rodriguez.
The former Saints flyer endured a horrendous injury which he struggled to come back from at St Mary’s and probably needed a fresh start to kick-start his career when at its peak resulted in England call-ups.
He will have taken confidence from his goal against the high-flying leaders Man City and his work ethic, character and ability make him a valuable part of Tony Pulis’s side. Do not underestimate him at any cost.
Chris Loewe vs Matt Phillips
Chris Loewe will be hoping his return to form is not a blip on Saturday and he will receive a physical examination against Matt Phillips.
The former QPR winger is a very under-rated player in the Premier League capable of spectacular goals and his directness will certainly trouble Loewe.
Loewe must keep his concentration, not make any costly lunges and do the basics right. If he does this, he will have a great chance of marshalling Phillips to good effect.
Danny Williams vs Grzegorz Krychowiak
The battle in the middle of the park will go a long way to deciding this game and the clash between Danny Williams and Grzegorz Krychowiak will be a monstrous one.
The aforementioned Pole had many other potential suitors than just West Brom before he signed and his influence can turn the tide of matches.
Williams will have to exert his typical dynamism, athleticism and impose his brand of physicality to ensure that we gain a foothold to influence the outcome of the match.
Views from the Boss
Ahead of this crucial encounter, David Wagner spoke in the pre-match presser:
“It’s not business as usual because this is a Premier League game and we’re not used to playing Premier League games,” he said.
“It’s a proper Premier League game and very exciting for the club and it’s a great game because it’s a home game. Is it a game where I feel we have a bigger chance that if we’re playing Liverpool away? Yes of course it is. But it doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to be successful. You have to make sure you are at your best.”
Wagner did not hesitate when asked if he would have taken their position in the table after 10 games before the start of the season. “Yes, absolutely,” he said. “I’m absolutely OK with the performances the players have shown. “
Stats to look out for
- Huddersfield and West Bromwich Albion will contest a top-flight fixture for the first time since a 1-1 draw at The Hawthorns in March 1972.
- Their most recent meeting was in the FA Cup third round in 2010, with West Brom 2-0 winners thanks to late goals from Graham Dorrans and Chris Wood.
- West Brom have only won three of their 22 top-flight away matches at Huddersfield (D7, L12).
- Town are looking to win successive top-flight home games for the first time since November 1971.
- West Brom are winless in eight league games and have only won two of their last 19 matches in the division (D6, L11).
- Albion’s starting XI this season is the oldest in the division, with an average age of 29 years and 161 days.
- Gareth Barry could become the first player to face 46 different Premier League clubs.
With both teams managers operating with a high level of attention to detail and organisation, don’t expect this game to be a goal-fest or first on Match of the Day. I expect one goal to decide it with a clean sheet going to the victor if so. What will be fascinating is to watch the chess-match that will take place between opposing managers and how each one will react to ensure their team brings home the three points.