Let the games begin.
New managers, new signings and brand new expectations will come to the fore at the Hawthorns, as yet another Barclays Premier League season kicks off.
It’s a rather strange sequence of events that has landed Brendan Rodgers and Steve Clarke up against each other on the first day of the 2012/13 season. The two worked together under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea up until 2008, with Clarke very much Rodger’s senior in a dynamic coaching staff involved around promoting youth.
Last season the two sat in competing benches as it drew to a close – Rodgers managing a surprisingly successful Swansea team at the Liberty Stadium, while Clarke stood as a first team coach with Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish at the helm. It would end up being the last game for those three men at their current clubs, with Dalglish being dramatically dismissed as manager of Liverpool as the summer started, Rodgers taking over the helm at Anfield and Clarke taking up his first managerial position at West Bromwich Albion.
The atmosphere at Anfield has changed dramatically now. With an impressive pre-season out of the way, the new signings of Fabio Borini, Joe Allen and Oussama Assaidi, and the promise of a brand new philosophy, fans expectations have become positive, yet also realistic.
Rodgers has impressed already as the new Liverpool manager, rattling off inspirational quotes about dominating games, making Anfield a fortress and passing, passing, passing. Whether he can walk the walk remains to be seen, but the talking that he has done has impressed all the corners of Liverpool’s fanbase, with promises of restoring The Liverpool Way falling on expectant ears.
Meanwhile nobody quite knows what to expect from West Brom. Clarke has the now England manager Roy Hodgson to emulate, who guided the Baggies to their highest league finish since 1981, 10th, last season.
Winning home games is a must, with West Brom losing 10 games in the 2011-12 season at the Hawthorns, including a 2-0 win to Liverpool. Meanwhile Clarke will be hoping last seasons Chelsea player Romelu Lukaku can score goals during his loan deal, along with Irish international Shane Long, who missed a chunk of last season through injury.
If the Baggies are to pick up more home wins, Liverpool could be one of the teams they should be looking to shock, with wins against lower league opposition proving a rare commodity last season in particular for the reds. However, it may be beyond the Baggies without Graham Dorrans, and with Jonas Olsson and James Morrison also doubtful after picking up injuries on international duty.
As for Liverpool, Fabio Borini, who signed from Roma for around £10 million, is expected to start after scoring in his first competitive game for Liverpool against FC Gomel in the Europa League. Joe Allen may also make his Liverpool bow, although fellow new boy Oussama Assaidi is unlikely to feature after only moving to Liverpool yesterday.
All eyes will be on Liverpool though, who will be hoping Rodgers can implement his philosophy into the team early on and give the reds a win to kick the season off. With the news that Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel will be staying, as well as the long term contract extension of Luis Suarez, the reds have a group of players capable of challenging for the top four this season, and if the team can keep their heads in front of goal, we could be seeing a very positive performance from Liverpool.
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