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Baggies trip the latest test of Liverpool's top four credentials
Liverpool travel to West Brom on Sunday for what appears to be their hardest remaining fixture. Given the Reds' tendency to make the difficult easy and vice versa, you could be forgiven for predicting it would be a stroll but it most certainly won't be. Tony Pulis will see to that.
West Brom will likely finish in the top 10 whatever happens in the next few weeks, and Pulis has an extraordinary record against Liverpool. He's not exactly overburdened with victories but in his Premier League career he's never lost on home soil against them.
The Reds got their first league success at Stoke once Pulis was replaced by Mark Hughes, a 5-3 win in January 2014. Any predictions Pulis would cease to be a stumbling block for Liverpool soon proved worthless as his new charges Crystal Palace wiped out a 3-0 deficit in 12 minutes at the end of that dramatic, traumatic season.
The Hawthorns became his latest port of call and now Liverpool can't win there either. It's an impressive albeit bizarre record and one that Jurgen Klopp would love to shatter on Sunday.
Easier said than done. What might have given Klopp and the Reds hope was West Brom's previously wretched record against top teams, but since their 3-1 win over Arsenal on March 18 even that cannot be relied upon.
Klopp at least has a full week's preparation and recuperation from now on in his pursuit of a top four place. That's probably just as well. It's no coincidence Liverpool's season virtually capsized in January, when cup campaigns meant a fixture overload and a run of atrocious form.
Even now as pressure is easing, the Reds are incapable of selecting anything like their first choice side. With one game a week for the rest of the season, there's a small chance Klopp can pick the same team and gather momentum while his direct opponents for top four compete in Europe or the FA Cup as well.
There are also some amazing clashes for the teams around Liverpool, starting with Manchester United against Chelsea on Sunday. While rivals are hopefully taking points off each other, it's up to Liverpool to remain focussed on their dilemma with the bottom 10 teams.
Their last match, a 2-1 win at Stoke, was welcome in terms of points but the performance was alarming. As Stoke started the day in the bottom 10, they overwhelmed Liverpool and fully deserved their 1-0 lead.
That would have given Stoke a top 10 spot -- then coincidentally Liverpool raised their game. Having gone 2-1 up and seemingly banished Stoke to the bottom 10 again, they did their best to squander that lead and only Simon Mignolet saved them. You'd need a degree in science to understand this team sometimes.
Thankfully, others are having similar problems -- notably Arsenal, who would normally take a top four spot for granted. Their 3-0 mauling at Crystal Palace was partly a result of excellent defending by on-loan Mamadou Sakho, whose relationship with Klopp is a major debating point again.
It's impossible to deny Liverpool could have done even better this season with the Frenchman in their defence as opposed to Ragnar Klavan or even the emergency performances of Lucas Leiva.
The win at Stoke at least saw a much improved performance from the goalkeeper. Mignolet isn't one of the most popular players at Anfield but no one denies he saved the Reds at the bet365 Stadium. Klopp even mentioned him in the same breath as Bayern Munich's Manuel Neuer, which had a lot of people chortling. Klopp's point was that Neuer makes mistakes too -- they're just not emphasised quite like Mignolet's.
Perhaps if the Belgian produced as many match-saving displays as Germany's -- perhaps the world's -- No.1 keeper, his treatment would be kinder but no way has he ever got near such a level.
Klopp's stance is laudable, however. He knows he just needs to get his limited forces over the finishing line in what remains of the season. A little encouragement and hype certainly won't hurt.
The celebrations both during and after the Stoke win showed how much it meant to the Reds. Klopp spoke of it as arguably the most important win of all yet a similar result at Albion could have an even bigger impact.
Their rivals for top four have some hard games coming up and they'll certainly be banking on Liverpool's season-long tendency to shoot themselves in the foot.
If Liverpool were to emerge triumphant from a game where everyone expected them to drop points, the effect on their rivals could be immediate and fatal.
Champions League qualification may also dictate how much Klopp gets to spend this summer and whether Liverpool can get back to the places they regard as their natural habitat -- competing for trophies at home and abroad.
Only if the mercysiders will win this match, then champions league spot will be 90% secured for them.
The match will be a very tough one for the REDSs.
I wish them all the best.