Predicting Liverpool's Starting XI vs. West Bromwich Albion

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistFebruary 10, 2013

Predicting Liverpool's Starting XI vs. West Bromwich Albion

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    Liverpool will be looking to get back to winning ways in the Premier League when they play West Bromwich Albion at Anfield on Monday, but there shouldn't be too many surprises in the Reds' starting lineup.

    Two 2-2 draws in a row at the Emirates and Etihad Stadiums yielded two well-earned points for the Reds, despite the team not being able to hold on to win either match after leading in both.

    The draws and the performances, by and large, in both matches against teams placed above Liverpool in the Premier League show that Brendan Rodgers has found a team that can be competitive.

    Not too many should expect to be losing their place in that case—here's the likely starting XI for Liverpool at Anfield against West Brom.

Goalkeeper: Pepe Reina

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    Pepe Reina is the undisputed first choice at Liverpool, but he will once again be under scrutiny this season after his late error against Manchester City cost the Reds a big win.

    Reina has been improved over the past two or three months, but individual errors still litter his and the defence's game.

    Even so, Reina is not likely to be displaced by Brad Jones at this point unless he suffers a sudden recurrence of injury.

Full-Backs: Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique

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    With Jose Enrique having won his place back in the team after injury, the Reds' back line should remain unchanged from the fixture at Manchester City.

    That means Glen Johnson in his more natural role on the right side, and Spaniard Jose Enrique at left-back.

    Andre Wisdom can count himself unfortunate to have been ousted by Jose Enrique, but the manager is looking for a little more experience at present. Both Johnson and Jose Enrique have been able to contribute significantly in the final third of the pitch, and they should get ample chance to showcase those abilities against West Brom.

Centre-Backs: Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger

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    The centre of defence should also remain unchanged.

    Jamie Carragher has suddenly come back into the team in the last three league games to add some much-needed organisation and steel to the Reds' defence, and he will play alongside Daniel Agger.

    Carragher announced his impending retirement from the game on Thursday via the club's website, so he will want to finish the season on as much of a high as he can.

    His last few performances have shown he can still contribute to the squad this season, and he and Agger should be strong enough to keep West Brom at bay on Monday.

Central Midfielders: Lucas Leiva and Steven Gerrard

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    Leiva continues to work his way back to full confidence and fitness and should play the holding role against West Brom, with Steven Gerrard given his usual licence to act as deep playmaker—though with plenty of room to break forward at opportune moments.

    It has taken Brendan Rodgers several months to tinker with his system and find the best trio to play in the middle and, having finally worked it out to good effect of late, it seems unlikely that this pairing in the centre will change.

    The one extra component has been Jordan Henderson, showing confidence and ability on the ball over the past month to win a place in the team and become a Reds regular once more. The only question for him will be whether he plays centrally or from the left...

Attacking Midfield: Jordan Henderson

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    It could go either way, but the suspicion must be that Henderson will start central against West Brom.

    At the Emirates playing Arsenal, Suarez played from the left but was required to constantly track back as the home team attacked Liverpool constantly.

    This should not be too much of an issue against West Brom at home, as Liverpool will be expected to be far more dominant and let Suarez play basically a free role from the left flank.

    That leaves Henderson central, where his constant movement, great work rate and ability to track back in midfield will help the Reds press high up the pitch when they lose possession. It will also allow him to drop back into a midfield three more effectively than Suarez would do when West Brom counter.

    The next couple of months could really be pivotal for Henderson in a Liverpool shirt—and on recent evidence he is doing everything right.

Wide Forwards: Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling

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    As per the previous slide, Luis Suarez should therefore be able to be handed a more-or-less free role from the left side of the attack, far less restrained than what was basically a left winger's role against Arsenal.

    Suarez can cut infield on his right foot, run at the defence, combine in space in front of the West Brom defence with the likes of Henderson and Gerrard and work his way into shooting positions beyond the forward line.

    The free and creative role suits Suarez perfectly, while he can be counted on to work hard and get back into position when the Reds lose the ball.

    On the opposite side might come the one change from the last couple of games. Stewart Downing has played far better over the past couple of months and is in the team on merit, helping the forward line keep its shape and adding to the attacking options.

    The alternative to him though is to include youngster Raheem Sterling.

    Having sat out a few games recently he should be raring to go once again, and his pace and ability to keep the width on the right side could trouble West Brom's defence significantly. He's also, of course, an option off the bench—but it might be time to put young Sterling back in the side to good effect.

Striker: Daniel Sturridge

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    £12 million, six games, four goals and one huge bucketload of optimism.

    Those are the numbers which define Daniel Sturridge's short stay on Merseyside thus far, and he will be hoping to take his place if fully fit—a slight thigh injury makes him a little doubt for the game at present.

    If fit though, he will certainly take his place as the club's central striker, and he can bring a direct threat through the centre as well as a more subtle approach in creating danger in deeper areas.

    Add to his four goals in his next home league games, and Sturridge will continue to become a very quick fans' favourite at Anfield.


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    Goalkeeper: Brad Jones

    Defenders: Martin Skrtel and Andre Wisdom

    Midfielders: Joe Allen and Jonjo Shelvey

    Attackers: Stewart Downing and Fabio Borini