And Clarke's No.2 relishing mouth-watering cup tieKEITH Downing believes Albion will face a Liverpool team turning the corner in tonight’s Capital One Cup clash (ko 8pm).
The Baggies' joint-assistant head coach is expecting a tight third-round encounter against Brendan Rodgers’ new-look outfit despite thrashing them 3-0 in this season’s Barclays Premier League opener.
And he insists Steve Clarke’s fourth-placed men should not put too much stock in the Reds’ lowly league position of 18th.
“I have watched them a couple of times recently and against Manchester United they were the better side, even with ten men,” said Downing.
“I thought they played exceptionally well and there was a controversial sending-off.
“At Sunderland they earned a valuable point which could have been all three.
“So they’re a good team. They are in a transitional period but there are signs Brendan is getting things right.
“It will be a tight game, I envisage another difficult game and I don’t think the first game will have much bearing on it.”
The Merseysiders will arrive at The Hawthorns as current holders and eight times winners of the League Cup.
And Downing says that alone makes it a mouth-watering game as the Baggies look to stay on course for their first taste of a major trophy since 1968.
He added: “It’s an important game.
“As soon as the draw was made it was an exciting tie and to play against the cup holders is a good one, and also to play at home.
“It’s a competition you can win.
“Birmingham City showed that a couple of seasons ago.
“There is seriousness about it and the head coach is very keen to show that.
“The competition for places is strong and we feel whoever we put out will give us an opportunity to win the game.”
Rodgers also has injury headaches as his men prepare for the third of four games in ten days.
Martin Kelly and Daniel Agger (both knee) and Fabio Borini (ankle) are all out after sustaining injuries in Sunday’s 2-1 defeat by Manchester United.
Jonjo Shelvey also misses out after being sent off against the Red Devils, while Joe Cole (hamstring) and Lucas (hip/thigh) remain sidelined.
“They’re in the difficult position of playing four games in ten days so I’m sure Brendan Rodgers will have to consider that,” said Downing.
“They picked up a few injuries on Sunday and that will make it difficult for him to decide who they are going to play.
“I’m sure he’ll want to get a result somewhere along the line and his side will be pretty strong.
“Their strength in depth is good.
“They’ve got a big trip to East Anglia to face Norwich at the weekend so I’m sure he’ll utilise his squad - but he’ll be determined to win the game.”