West Brom V Liverpool at The Hawthorns : Match Preview
Reds revenge not on Clarke's agenda
West Brom manager Steve Clarke squares off with Liverpool's Brendan Rodgers insisting he bears no grudge towards his friend's new club despite being sacked by them this summer.
Clarke has revealed he was fired from the coaching staff at Anfield rather than leaving of his own accord following Kenny Dalglish's dismissal after a poor season. The Scot said Rodgers had urged him to stay on when he was first in the running to succeed Dalglish.
But Rodgers then dropped out of contention and despite the Northern Irishman eventually getting the job after all, Clarke claims he was sacked by the club. But Clarke feels no bitterness after securing his first full managerial role at the Hawthorns by replacing England boss Roy Hodgson.
"I've got no grievance whatsoever with Liverpool Football Club," he said. "I had a fantastic time there and obviously after Saturday I'll wish them well for the season. "It's a big game for me because it's my first in charge of West Bromwich Albion.
It wouldn't matter who the opposition is, it would still be just as big a game." Clarke this week experienced his first sour taste of the age-old club v country dispute and is annoyed with what he sees as unnecessary stress put on his players.
"Jonas Olsson played 90 for Sweden and Gareth McAuley played 90 (for Northern Ireland)," he said. "It has upset me a little bit, yes. Two experienced central defenders didn't need 90 minutes of football after travelling to play for their countries before the opening of the Premier League. I don't understand it.
"It's placed in a ridiculous place in the calendar, it's been addressed and it will be taken out of the fixture list and the quicker that happens the better." Olsson and Scotland's James Morrison are injury doubts while Markus Rosenberg and Graham Dorrans are unavailable.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admits the challenge of breaking back into the top four will be significant but one the club should embrace. The Reds have not qualified for the Champions League since running Manchester United close in the Barclays Premier League title race in 2009.
In the three subsequent seasons they have finished seventh, sixth and eighth and seen the likes of Manchester City and Tottenham take places in the top four. Rodgers has spent the two and a half months since taking over from Kenny Dalglish in June restructuring the way the team plays to make them more compatible with his principles of a passing and pressing game.
And while he accepts they are not where he wants them to be yet, he is confident they can make a better attempt at rejoining Europe's elite. "I've said right from the off I want to make us as competitive as we can possibly be," he said. "The challenge at the top of the table is greater than ever.
Now there are seven or eight teams involved but the top four is certainly not something we'll shy away from. "It's where a club of this status wants to be but it's always easier said than done and the reality over the past three seasons or so hasn't been that.
"Our job is to try to push on. There has been a lot of work done over the last few years to try to get the club back into the top echelons of the league so we are hoping to do that." Liverpool's new signings Fabio Borini and Joe Allen could both be given a debut.
Striker Borini is pushing for a start having impressed in pre-season since arriving from Roma last month, although midfielder Allen may have to settle for a place on the bench having only joined from Swansea a week ago. Midfielder Joe Cole has recovered from a hamstring injury sustained in the Europa League qualifier against FC Gomel in Belarus earlier this month.
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