West Brom-Liverpool Preview
LONDON (SE) - Peter Odemwingie has been Liverpool's bogeyman in recent matches against West Bromwich Albion, but right now, he may be a bigger problem to his Baggies teammates.
The Nigerian forward may still be a first-choice selection for manager Steve Clarke after a tumultuous week as sluggish West Brom travel to Anfield on Monday to face in-form Liverpool.
Odemwingie was at the centre of probably the most bizarre scenario of all leading up to the transfer deadline last week, defying West Brom management and driving to Loftus Road in hopes of forcing the Baggies (10-4-11) to accept a bid Queens Park Rangers had made. After QPR refused to make contact with him, he faced a maelstrom from club and teammates, with defender Steve Reid publicly criticising Odemwingie for his actions.
The two reportedly had a physical confrontation in the team's training room area this week, and the organisation also fined Odemwingie two weeks' pay for his action. For his part, Odemwingie offered a statement of apology Friday, saying, "I understand how my actions have been viewed and want to apologise to the club and our supporters for any distress I have caused.
"I want to reassure everyone at the club and our fans that I will continue to give my all whenever I am selected."
Given his recent track record versus the Reds (9-9-7), Clarke may give him a first opportunity to make amends in this match. The Nigerian converted from the penalty spot in the reverse fixture this season as part of West Brom's 3-0 lid-lifting win at The Hawthorns and also scored the match-winner in the corresponding fixture last season, tallying in the 75th minute of a 1-0 triumph at Anfield.
"It hasn't been ideal for us," Clarke understated when asked about the distractions of the past week-plus. "I would think at some point some players have been distracted by what has gone on, other players have just gone on with it, and maybe different players have been distracted at different times.
"It's been a difficult time for the club."
On the pitch, West Brom's fast start seem a distant memory as they have won just two of their last 12 overall and have taken only one point from their last six. They were on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline at home versus Tottenham on Feb. 3, getting only five shots total in the match.
The Baggies have dropped three straight on the road and have yet to keep a clean sheet outside The Hawthorns.
Liverpool still harbour hope of a Europa League spot and can close within five points of fifth-place Arsenal with a win at Anfield. The Reds have taken points from five of their last six (3-2-1) and earned points in back-to-back road matches but settled for a 2-2 draw versus Manchester City after conceding a late marker to Sergio Aguero.
Steven Gerrard assisted on Daniel Sturridge's first-half goal and had given Liverpool a 2-1 lead in the 73rd minute with his sixth league goal. Sturridge has three in four Premier League matches with Liverpool but will likely be a match-time decision after suffering a thigh injury in the draw.
Manager Brendan Rodgers, though, will have Raheem Sterling available and possibly midfielder Coutinho, who has been practising with the team after being acquired at the transfer deadline from Inter Milan.
This will be Liverpool's first match since 15-year veteran defender Jamie Carragher announced that he is to retire at the end of the season.
"For me he'll be irreplaceable," Rodgers said. "He's an outstanding leader and organiser in the team, and to find someone with all those capabilities and who has got the heart the size of a lion is very, very difficult to find."
The Baggies haven't beaten Liverpool three straight times since five wins on the bounce from 1936-38.