Liverpool Will Find Roy Hodgson's West Brom a Tough Nut to Crack
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West Bromwich Albion boss Roy Hodgson will be keen to repeat last season's performance against Liverpool at the Hawthorns this weekend
Last April, Albion beat the Reds 2-1—sweet revenge for the sacking he suffered in January after just 20 league games in charge at Anfield.
But that victory over Liverpool was not his greatest achievement of the season; that was to come six weeks later, against the other Merseysiders.
West Brom's 1-0 victory over Everton in the penultimate league game of the season was a landmark occasion because it marked Albion's first clean sheet in over nine leaky months. The last time they had kept the opposition out for 90 minutes was in the second match of the season, against Sunderland at the Hawthorns.
It was an agonisingly long wait for Albion fans who watched their side, managed by Roberto Di Matteo, play flamboyant, attacking football up front, and kamikaze, slapstick soccer at the back. Albion slipped dangerously down the league and looked relegation fodder. Then out went the cavalier Di Matteo, and in came reliable Roy.
Hodgson has a record of tightening up defences. On limited resources, he shored up the Fulham back four and, in Brede Hangeland and the oft-ignored Aaron Hughes, he created a formidable defensive pairing. Fulham overachieved under Hodgson.
Their headline-grabbing strikers were ordinary, but their anonymous defenders were excellent.
When he moved to the Hawthorns it took Hodgson a while to settle the Albion defence, but the signs for this season are good.
Three clean sheets in the past five games have lifted Albion up the league after their punishing start in which they faced Man United and then Chelsea in their opening fixtures.
Goalscorer Peter Odemwingie is the fan favourite, but the key to their recent success is the steady back line: Gareth McAuley, Jonas Olsson, Nicky Shorey and Steven Reid.
Liverpool will be a tough test. Luis Suarez can be too good for any defence, but this season, Albion are a more stable side. They're not world-beaters, and they will struggle against the top sides just as they did last season.
But they won't throw so many points away.
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