Capital One Cup holders Liverpool begin the defence of their title with a trip to West Bromwich Albion and if the Reds’ last cup match is anything to go by, then we are going to be in for one crazy match.
The Merseysiders’ 5-3 victory over Young Boys of Switzerland in the Europa League was so out of character: suddenly, a team that has barely been able to score a goal hammered five in a game that was as ludicrous as it was enjoyable.
Manager Brendan Rodgers sent a much-changed and largely inexperienced side to face the Swiss outfit, but it actually resulted in a goalscoring performance normally served up by the experienced players. And there is no doubt that the former Swansea boss will pick a similar team at the Hawthorns, even if retaining the trophy they won in dramatic circumstances against Cardiff at Wembley in February remains Liverpool’s best chance of tangible success this year.
That is because the league has to take priority. Liverpool reverted to type on an emotional day at Anfield on Sunday, where an undeserved 2-1 loss to Manchester United just about summed up Rodgers’ problems. By Sir Alex Ferguson’s admission, even with ten men Liverpool were the better team but a lack of cutting edge is severely undermining any possession football the Reds might be playing and two points from five games tells its own story.
West Brom’s form at the Hawthorns has been perfect so far this season. Three wins from three with six goals scored and none conceded is as good as anyone could expect and of course, the Baggies have already beaten the Reds this season, 3-0 on the opening day of the campaign.
Both domestic cups gave Liverpool refuge from their woes in the Premier League last season, where Kenny Dalglish oversaw a terrible run of results from January onwards that have yet to be reversed. Rodgers, as he is no doubt sick of hearing, has yet to win a league match since taking over from the Scot in the summer and there is only so long that the good feeling towards the Northern Irishman will last if results in the league don’t come.
This is why the Capital One Cup is an irrelevance for Liverpool this season and why West Brom have to be the bet on Wednesday evening. The Baggies are slight favourites at 7/4, with Liverpool at 7/5 (the draw is 23/10) and I think you have to be siding with Albion here.
Steve Clarke knows only too well the value of the League Cup, having won the trophy twice when assistant to Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, as well as being number two to Dalglish last season when Liverpool triumphed. It means the Scot will want to progress as far as he can and there is no reason why West Brom can’t have a run in the competition.
Relegation will not be a concern and you only have to look at the list of finalists in both domestic cups over the last five years – Cardiff City, Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Portsmouth, Stoke City – to see that there is a chance for a good, solid Premier League outfit to negotiate their way to a showpiece final with some good luck and a favourable draw.
Liverpool at home may not count as a favourable draw, but West Brom’s form at the Hawthorns has been perfect so far this season. Three wins from three with six goals scored and none conceded is as good as anyone could expect and of course, the Baggies have already beaten the Reds this season, 3-0 on the opening day of the campaign.
And with Liverpool minds sure to be on their trip to Norwich on Saturday, at 7/4 West Brom can take advantage of another inexperienced Reds side.
Recommended bet: West Brom to beat Liverpool @ 7/4
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