West Brom manager Steve Clarke believes that Liverpool are currently playing the best soccer of any team in England and that they are reaping the benefits from players signed during Kenny Dalglish’s time in charge.
Clarke was assistant to Dalglish during his 18 months at Anfield, which ended last summer. The big-money signings, made during Dalglish’s reign, of the likes of Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson have been subjected to much criticism. However, after initially looking like they would be surplus to requirements under new manager Brendan Rodgers, both have featured prominently in Liverpool’s recent good run of form.
"I'm not surprised now that some of the younger players are starting to flourish, or some of the more experienced ones that Kenny signed," Clarke said, according to Liverpool’s official website. "It can take a period of time for people to settle into a club the size of Liverpool.
"For Stewart Downing to be in the team and Jordan Henderson, as well as Jose Enrique, and doing really well, is good. Luis Suarez has really settled into the club now and, if you look at it at this stage, Liverpool are probably playing the best football in the Premier League."
Liverpool were impressive in their last two league outings against Manchester City and Arsenal and will doubtless consider themselves unlucky not to have emerged with maximum points. In both games, though, they relinquished leads in the second half to take just a point.
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In the build-up to the clash with west Brom, Rodgers has talked up his side’s chances of making a late run to claim a Champions League place. But, with Liverpool trailing fourth-placed Tottenham by 12 points, with the West Brom match in hand, there can be little room for slip ups.
West Brom lay just two points behind Liverpool, but their form has tailed off alarmingly since their strong start to the season. Clarke’s side have taken just one point from the last 24 on offer.
Although he is highly unlikely to start, much of the focus will continue to be on forward Peter Odemwingie. The Nigerian has apologized for his unwise trip to Queens Park Rangers on transfer deadline day and is back in training and available for selection once more.
Unavailable for West Brom is Goran Popov, who begins a three-match suspension for spitting at Tottenham’s Kyle Walker during last Sunday’s 1-0 defeat. Youssuf Mulumbu is likely to return from a knee problem.
Liverpool could hand a debut to recent signing from Internazionale, Philippe Coutinho. The Reds’ other January arrival, Daniel Sturridge, may miss out with a thigh problem.
D: Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique
M: Gerrard, Lucas
Sterling, Henderson. Downing
West Brom (probable)
D: Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell
M: Mulumbu, Yacob
Dorrans, Morrison, Brunt
Prediction: West Brom’s form has been wretched of late, with their results away from the Hawthorns—losing five of the last six league matches—having been particularly poor. In contrast, Liverpool have played excellently of late, with only individual errors proving their downfall.
The potential loss of Sturridge would be a blow, but Liverpool still look set to take the three points.
Liverpool 2-0 West Brom
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League encounter will kick-off from Anfield at 3 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN2, with a live stream available on ESPN3.