Liverpool v WBA. Managers past and present meet in vital game

By Andy Hayes on Mar 30, 11 10:50 PM in Fans

When Roy Hodgson got his first home Premier League victory for Liverpool against West Bromwich Albion back in August, he would have hoped it would have been the first of many three points gained in front of the Anfield faithful. A largely forgettable game, Hodgson would have been glad to get his first win under his belt as much more memorable occasions lay ahead for the League Managers Association manager of the year. Instead, it was the first of only six league victories in front of the Kop and now the former Fulham has the chance to earn himself a rare piece of footballing symmetry.

Now manager of The Baggies, Hodgson will be hoping his first home win for his new club will be in the reverse fixture of his first home win for his last club. Albion have been solid under their new manager; no defeats, three draws and a crucial win away at Birmingham, and if the result is a narrow home victory like the one he achieved in August, then that would go a long way to ensure Roy Hodgson meeting his target of Premier League survival.

Contrary to what some of the traveling Kop will be saying on Saturday, Hodgson wouldn't have expected to find himself in a relegation battle come April, before or after that three points in late August. Football can change a lot and quickly, just as Fernado Torres, the scorer of the only goal in that game, has shown; but one thing Liverpool won't want to have changed is their exceptional Premier League form against their next opponents.

A Premier League aggregate scoreline of 25-0 just shows how much Liverpool have enjoyed playing West Bromwich Albion. Despite having faced Liverpool with five different managers, ranging from Gary Megson to Roberto Di Matteo, none have picked a team capable of even scoring past the Reds but Roy Hodgson will certainly be looking to change that and make The Hawthorns an unhappy hunting ground for his former club. A two all draw with Arsenal last time out has shown that they won't be afraid to play Liverpool and that they were ahead for such a long period will have given them extra confidence that they can get a result to edge them further away from the drop. Hodgson will claim to have an inside knowledge of his opponents and their weaknesses, but this is a very different Liverpool side to the one he left just three months ago.

Very different because this Liverpool can control games away from home. Very different because they play good football with a variety of options. Very different because everyone is pulling in the same direction and is working for the good of the team. In fact, the only similarity will be the name being chanted from the away supporters. 'Dalglish' will be heard, but it will be sung loud and proud instead of screamed out of frustration and desperation - as an SOS. The name that is held with such high esteem at Anfield yet haunted Hodgson. It is the name that rang around his ears at Stoke, Newcastle and Blackburn. It was a name that meant he had lost and hopefully this trend will continue this weekend.

Although it shouldn't be turned into a personal battle against Hodgson, he is a good man and manager who was just woefully short of what Liverpool needed, he can be used as a source of added motivation to the Liverpool squad that he claimed weren't really very good and full of 'expensive failures'. Kenny Dalglish's teamtalk may have already been done for him by his predecessor. Glen Johnson will be especially keen to show he has returned to the form that made him an England regular whilst Daniel Agger will want to show defenders can play as well as just tackle, block and head. Even Raul Meireles, despite being signed by Hodgson, will want to show how important a player he can be by getting involved in attacks instead of being missed out by a long ball, whilst if Liverpool do go direct, at least they will have players who can use that effectively.

Andy Carroll will be hoping he can get off the mark for club and country in the same week after his powerful finish against Ghana, whilst Dirk Kuyt, scorer of three in a week for Holland and five in his last five for Liverpool will be confident of extending his hot streak. Steven Gerrard has returned to training and will be itching to play whilst Reds fans will be hoping Luis Suarez is fit for action after his late injury at Sunderland put a dampener on another fantastic performance from the Uruguayan. The likes of Joe Cole, Jay Spearing and Maxi Rodriguez will be pushing for a midfield start after remaining at Melwood during the international break and gives Kenny Dalglish an option of fresh legs as the season enters the final stretch.

Although the match will be dubbed by many as Hodgson v Dalglish, the dark days v the bright new dawn, Liverpool need to focus on getting the three points at The Hawthorns to retain realistic hopes of European qualification. When the whistle blows at three o'clock on Saturday (the first time Liverpool have had an away game on a Saturday at three since December 2009) the players will know that they will have to produce an away performance similar to the ones at Molineux and The Stadium of Light rather than the one at Upton Park. Good performances breed good results and if another victory can be picked up against The Baggies on Saturday, the dark days will seem a little further away and Roy Hodgson will have to wait a little longer for his season's second 'first' home win.

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