Defending champions Liverpool will look to consolidate their lead at the top of the Premier League table when they host West Bromwich Albion at Anfield on Sunday.
Jurgen Klopp’s men scored two outright victories in the span of three days last week, toppling other title contenders Tottenham Hotspur at home before mutilating Crystal Palace 7-0 to take a four-point lead over Leicester City in second.
The win at Selhurst Park was Klopp’s 127th Premier League as Liverpool boss – surpassing Rafa Benitez’s club record – and given the form of opponents this weekend, he will no doubt feel that the number 128 will soon be on its way.
West Brom is in 19th place, five points from safety, and has the second-worst goal difference among all clubs in England’s top four divisions (-19). Much to the chagrin of sections of the fan base, the club recently sacked Slaven Bilic, and in place of the Croatian has arrived survival specialist Sam Allardyce, who has been given the usual mandate of avoiding relegation.
Allardyce, infamous for his straightforward, down-to-earth football, witnessed a 3-0 home loss to Aston Villa in his first game at the helm, but holds the remarkable record of being the Premier’s last guest coach. League to leave Anfield with three points; his Palace side won in April 2017.
For West Brom fans, there is at least that.
When does the kick-off take place? Sunday December 27
What time is the kick-off? 4.30 p.m. (GMT)
Where is it played? Anfield
TV channel / live broadcast? Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports PL
Arbitrator? Kevin friend
Liverpool have been boosted by the return to training of midfield duo James Milner and Xherdan Shaqiri this week, but neither should be fit enough to start. Milner (hamstring) has missed the last six games, while Shaqiri (muscle problem) has been out since the international break in November.
Thiago Alcantara, meanwhile, has also been pictured in training but “won’t be rushed” according to Klopp and is said to be a little further behind his fellow midfielders, with the Spaniard still recovering from Richarlison’s horror tackle in the Merseyside derby. Mohamed Salah is expected to return to the starting XI after scoring twice on the bench against Palace.
As for the visitors, Jake Livermore will miss his red card against Villa, but playmaker Matheus Pereira will be back after serving his own three-game suspension. Conor Townsend, Hal Robson-Kanu and Kyle Bartley are all close to a comeback, but this game will come too soon for them.
Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Robertson, Fabinho, Matip; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Keita; Salah, Mane, Firmino
West Brom: Johnstone; Furlong, Gibbs, O’Shea, Ajayi; Sawyers; Phillips, Diangana, Gallagher, Pereira; Grant
Back at the top of the table, morale is good again for Liverpool.
After a tumultuous start to the campaign which saw defensive talisman Virgil Van Dijk ruled out for the remainder of the season, the Reds responded defiantly, with two historic wins propelling them to pole position.
It doesn’t bode well for West Brom, however, that the palace – eviscerated by Liverpool last weekend – had handed out its own beating to the Baggies two weeks before. This was followed by a 2-0 loss to Newcastle United and then, encouragingly, a 1-1 draw against Manchester City, before Bilic received the sacking.
It’s this type of performance that the man known universally as “Big Sam” hopes his team can emulate, and it’s these resilient qualities that will be an integral part of any result at Anfield.
Crystal Palace 0-7 Liverpool (19/12)
Liverpool 2-1 Tottenham (12/16)
Fulham 1-1 Liverpool (12/13)
Midtjylland 1-1 Liverpool (09/12)
Liverpool 4-0 Wolves (06/12)
West Brom 0-3 Aston Villa (20/12)
Manchester City 1-1 West Brom (12/15)
Newcastle 2-1 West Brom (12/12)
West Brom 1-5 Crystal Palace (06/12)
West Brom 1-0 Sheffield United (28/11)
If West Brom fans can find solace in anything, it’s Allardyce’s record at Anfield; he is undefeated on his last three visits.
However, this is unlikely to frighten a Liverpool side who haven’t lost at home in the league for more than three years, especially given the respective form of the two teams. Liverpool are undefeated in 10 in the league, while the Baggies have won only once so far this campaign.
With Salah, Firmino and Mane’s strike force needing to be restored, it’s hard to see anything other than a festive feast for the league leaders.
Prediction: Liverpool 4-0 West Brom