Roy Hodgson, the Liverpool manager, said it is too early to write off his side just two matches into the season. Last week's loss to Manchester City was seen by some as a sign that Roberto Mancini's side had overtaken Liverpool in the top-four pecking order. Hodgson has, understandably, tried to take a more measured view of things. Liverpool were within a couple of minutes of beating Arsenal at Anfield in their first match, having played for half the game with 10 men after Joe Cole's sending-off. And their preparations for the City match were disrupted by Barcelona-bound Javier Mascherano making himself unavailable.
The first half of their Europa League play-off against Trabzonspor did little to assuage doubts about whether the players were indeed capable of performing under pressure. They did, however, show character after the break and two late goals put them into the group stage, so they head into today's clash with West Bromwich Albion at Anfield with renewed confidence. "I can't get my head around why, on the second game of the season, it should be seen as such a watershed," Hodgson said. "We lost a football game. But we showed great character, to keep going and keep playing the right football against Trabzonspor and I was really pleased we achieved victory against a team which are notoriously difficult to beat."
Today's match will see the return of striker Fernando Torres, captain Steven Gerrard, forward Milan Jovanovic and probably Daniel Agger. They were all left behind on Merseyside either because Hodgson felt they needed a rest or were injured. Also today, Bolton Wanderers face Birmingham City. Both clubs have made encouraging starts, with four points apiece from their opening two games. Some have predicted a top-10 finish for Wanderers, but manager Owen Coyle stressed that it is still very early in the season.
"Everybody wants points on the board and four points from two games has been a pleasing start, but that is all it is," Coyle said. * Press Association