Monday night's clash between Liverpool and West Brom could be an important fixture come the end of the season, with both sides harbouring ambitions of European football. While Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers hasn't been tasked with conjuring an immediate return to the top four, such is Liverpool's European history that a Europa League spot must be strived for. With the Reds' next two league fixtures against West Brom and Swansea, Rodgers will need a positive set of results as they try to close the gap on fifth-placed Arsenal, which is the lowest Premier League position guaranteed to provide European football next season.
Despite being Liverpool's tormentors on the opening day of the season, West Brom are enduring a disastrous run of form of late, winning just one of their last 14 fixtures in all competitions. Steve Clarke, who was applauded earlier in the season for inspiring the Baggies into the top four, desperately needs a win if he is to ensure his side stay within contention for a European spot.
Should he start, all eyes will likely be on Jamie Carragher, who announced his impending retirement at the end of the season. The 35 year-old, who joined the club's academy aged nine, has enjoyed a recent first team run, starting the last three fixtures, and will be disappointed if he doesn't extend that with a starting place against West Brom. Daniel Sturridge should be available for selection, after a thigh injury ruled him out of England's friendly with Brazil last week, while new signing Philippe Coutinho should expect an inclusion in Liverpool's match day squad.
Goran Popov begins his three-match ban following his red card for spitting at Tottenham's Kyle Walker last weekend, while Youssouf Mulumbu is expected to return to the starting XI after a knee injury. Peter Odemwingie, who was disciplined by the club following his QPR transfer debacle, could be in line for a surprise inclusion in the Baggies' squad.
Lucas v Mulumbu
Youssouf Mulumbu has been one of the unsung heroes of West Brom's early season form, and Steve Clarke's side have certainly missed his midfield presence over the past month. His potential return would likely see him squaring off against Lucas, who's return to action following a similar lay-off has resulted in improved Liverpool performances in recent weeks.
Carragher v Lukaku
Jamie Carragher's recent return to the starting XI has seen the veteran defender face two tough attacking sides in Arsenal and Man City, a task he has taken to with typical aplomb. He may have his work cut out though against West Brom's on-loan striker Romelu Lukaku, who has been one of the Baggies' players of the season. The Belgian striker is enjoying a good spread of goals this year, having scored nine in the league, although he is currently on his longest drought of the season having not found the net in his last three games.
Sturridge v Olsson
At the opposite of the end of the pitch, Liverpool new-boy Daniel Sturridge will hope to continue his bright start to life at Anfield with a good performance on Monday evening. The striker was in fine form against Man City, scoring a goal and proving a general nuisance for the City backline. He seems to be developing an exciting partnership with Luis Suarez and it will be down to Jonas Olsson to keep him quiet. With Goran Popov banned for three matches, Olsson will have to lead the West Brom line and could endure a busy night.
Possible line ups
Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique, Lucas, Henderson, Gerrard, Downing, Sturridge, Suarez
Foster, Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Dorrans, Mulumbu, Morrison, Brunt, Lukaku, Long
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