West Brom v Liverpool; Saturday 18 August 2012
The Hawthorns; 15:00 KO
Barclays Premier League
The midweek internationals have been anything but friendly to West Brom with Swedish stopper Jonas Olsson and Scotland's James Morrison both returning with injuries.
Graham Dorrans is on leave after his daughter contracted Meningitis. Shane Long is available but new recruit Markus Rosenberg is still unfit.
Brendan Rogers could give debuts to Joe Allen and Fabio Borini whilst the game may be too soon for Oussamah Assaidi to start. Borini has had a longer settling in period and his good run of form during pre season may guarantee a starting berth. Weshman Allen may have to settle for the bench.
Rodgers and Clarke prepare for debuts
No sooner has Steve Clarke taken over the managerial reigns for the first time in his career then he is thrown a baptism of fire in his very first game.
Clarke’s Baggies will face Liverpool at The Hawthorns to kick-start the new Premier League campaign for both teams and it will be interesting to compare the playing tactics of the two young managers. Both are highly respected within the game and both served and learned under master coach Jose Mourinho.
Steve Clarke has spoken of his and Kenny Dalglish’s departure from Anfield and rightly believes that Brendan Rogers will need to achieve a top four finish to cushion the weight of expectation from Liverpool fans. And the Scotsman has a point. The owners did not hesitate to sack Dalglish and Clarke, despite stabilising a team in transition with a top 8 finish and an appearance in two major domestic cup finals.
He said: "They have said top four is not imperative for the current campaign. I don't believe that. A club like Liverpool have to be challenging for the top four. I don't think the club or the fans can expect anything less. Kenny and I went in at a difficult time. We stabilised the club. We didn't envisage not being there this season and we were pretty sure Liverpool would be in the top four. We agreed that was realistic for this season."
Speaking about Liverpool’s opponents Brendan Rodgers added: "I think like a lot of teams, they'll be hard to beat. We'll see over the course of time what Steve's philosophy will be as a manager. You only get to really see that in someone when they're the No.1. When you're the No.2, you do your work and your coaching, but it will always be led by the manager."
There will be much interest in whether Romelu Lukaku makes his West Brom debut after being limited to a frustrating 12 games at Chelsea last season. Speaking to the BBC, his manager said: "He's certainly hungry, I know that.
"He wants to do well and prove himself in the Premier League. Whether he has grievances with Chelsea is not for me to comment on. I don't know what happened last year at Chelsea.
"It was obviously going to be difficult for him to get in the team ahead of Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres and that proved to be the case. But he's got a clean slate this year."
The last encounter between the Reds and Baggies at Anfield saw Peter Odemwingie score a late winner in a shock 1-0 win over a squandering Liverpool team.
Last season Luis Suarez won more penalties than any other Premier League footballer (4).
West Brom conceded the joint-most penalties in the 2011-12 Premier League (9).
The Anfield men hit the woodwork 33 times in 2011-12. OPTA analysis confirms this to be the most by any team in any season of Premier League football.
Last season the Baggies conceded fewer headed goals (5) than any other Premier League side.
Last season Liverpool became the first team to miss five penalties in a single Premier League season since 1998/99.
In 2012 the Reds accumulated a measly 18 points from 19 Premier League games.
Miserly Liverpool allowed the opposition fewer shots on target than any other Premier League club last season (132).
Last season the Hawthorns saw more goals scored in the opening 15 minutes than any other Premier League ground (11).
2011/12 was Liverpool’s lowest points total in a season since 1953/54 (based on three points for a win), when they were relegated from the top-flight with (an amended) 37 pts.
Liverpool posted the worst chance conversion rate of any team in the 2011-12 Premier League, scoring with just 9% of attempts.