West Brom-Liverpool Preview
By CHRIS ALTRUDA
(AP) -- West Bromwich Albion have proven to be a tougher outfit on the road thus far than many would have imagined.
Liverpool, however, knows all too well the road potency of the Baggies as they seek to avoid a third consecutive loss at Anfield to them on Saturday.
While Steve Clarke's team is currently 11th in the table with 10 points through eight matches, the Baggies (2-4-2) have claimed six points in their four away contests, highlighted by their stunning 2-1 victory at Old Trafford over reigning champions Manchester United on Sept. 28.
West Brom stretched their overall league unbeaten streak to five matches (3-2-0) last Saturday with a scoreless draw at Stoke City and are seeking their first five-match unbeaten run on the road in the Premier League era.
"It shows how far we've come that we're expecting to win almost every game," Liam Ridgewell told the team's official website. "If we keep playing like we did at Stoke then we'll pick up more points than we'll lose."
Manager Steve Clarke also has reason for optimism as his team gets closer to full strength. Shane Long appeared as a substitute for the final 15 minutes at Brittania and Scott Sinclair may be available for selection as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury.
"I think he's starting to look a bit like his old self again," Clarke said of Long, adding, "he's been training well in the last few sessions. He gets into good positions in the box and I'm pleased with his progress."
Though the Baggies boast impressive road credentials, Liverpool forward Daniel Sturridge has burnished his at almost every venue both domestic and international. The 24-year-old rescued the Reds (5-2-1) against a 10-man Newcastle United on Saturday, netting the equaliser in the 72nd minute of a 2-2 draw at St James' Park.
It was Sturridge's seventh goal in eight league matches, with five of them providing the winning margin or a point for Liverpool. The Reds, though, slipped to third in the table behind front-running Arsenal as well as Chelsea on goal differential. Despite the drop in standings, manager Brendan Rodgers thinks the team's culture is where it needs to be to vie for silverware in the immediate future.
"I still think there's a hell of a lot of improvement for us to make, but in the main, we're a tight unit, and we just need to keep moving forward. There will come a time when we start looking at when we can challenge, but we can't get carried away.
"We have stabilised the mentality, there's a strong culture at the club now, and I think the supporters can see the direction we're going in."
That direction hasn't been visible recently versus the Baggies, who performed the double last season by a combined 5-0 scoreline around a home loss to Liverpool in the third round of the League Cup. In the corresponding fixture last season, Gareth McAuley snapped a scoreless deadlock in the 81st minute before Romelu Lukaku secured the three points with a goal nine minutes later as West Brom won despite being outshot 25-5.
West Brom have won three on the trot in league play between the teams and four of five since snapping a nine-game losing streak to the Reds. The Baggies, who had gone winless in 21 tries at Anfield dating back to 1967 since breaking through in 2011-12, are trying to become the first side to win three straight Premier League matches at Anfield since Chelsea accomplished the feat from 2004-06.
Updated October 24, 2013