Upton Park, London
February 27, 2011, 13:30 BST
With relegation looming over their heads, West Ham United do not have much room for error at this point in the season. Saturday’s results from the Premier League, coupled with their abysmal run of form, has seen the Hammers take up the last spot in the league table before welcoming Liverpool. Although co-owner David Sullivan has continued to retain hopes of surviving the vortex, it is going to be an uphill task until the end of the season if those very hopes are to work their magic. Given that this season has been one of the most competitive and toughest Premier League seasons, a couple of wins on the trot will see West Ham take a leap out of the relegation zone and into the top half of the table.
Having secured victory against a formidable Sparta Prague side, Liverpool is now through to the round of 16 in the Europa League. Kenny and his men will only look at this as an impetus to another eye catching performance on Sunday. The Reds were missing key players like Steven Gerrard and Andy Carroll for the game against Prague but still managed to take the game to the opposition and their effort definitely paid off. The Reds are inching closer to the top 4 bracket and if results continue to go their way for the next few games, then it sets up a fierce battle for a spot in the top 4 for next season’s Champions League. A win against West Ham will move them within 2 points of Chelsea and Dalglish hence knows how vital the game at Upton Park would be.
Team News and Tactical Brief
West Ham United
The Hammers are dealing with numerous injury problems and Grant simply does not have enough options to fill in for a few of the regular starters. Matthew Upson is ruled out due to an Achilles injury while former Liverpool player and fan Robbie Keane is ruled out due to a calf strain.
In addition, striker Victor Obinna (foot injury), midfielders Kieron Dyer and Jack Collison (knee injury) are also ruled out for the fixture against the Merseysiders. However, in what might be the silver lining for West Ham United, Danny Gabbidon is said to be match fit after recovering from a hamstring problem and may start the game.
Slim Pickings for the West Ham boss
Due to the lack of depth and quality in their striker force, West Ham’s chances of availing any points from this game would be attributed to its midfield. The presence of Scott Parker and Mark Noble in the centre of the park plus Boa Morte and Faubert on the flanks forms the strip that can cause maximum damage for Liverpool. Club captain Scott Parker will again be the key man in linking defense and attack and is going to be the Hammers’ lynchpin on the pitch. New striker Demba Ba is yet unknown to the Premier League which could work in Avram Grant’s favour, since his presence leaves the defenders in an unsettled stance on how to handle the attacker.
Probable starting line-up: Green, Gabbidon, Tomkins, Bridge, Ilunga, Parker, Noble, Boa Morte, Laurent Faubert, Carlton Cole, Demba Ba.
Dalglish will be travelling to London without Andy Carroll while Agger and Martin Kelly are yet to be tested for complete match fitness after both the players had to be taken off during the Europa game against Prague due to injuries.
Skipper Steven Gerrard has been training; provided he is match fit, he will start in the centre of the park for Liverpool. Joe Cole made a return from injury in the midweek Europa fixture and although Kenny wanted to bring him off around the hour mark, other injuries forced the manager to keep him on the field.
West Ham have not really proven to be come-back kings this season and hence if Liverpool open the scoring then the odds are that they will leave London being richer by 3 more points. Luis Suarez is cup-tied, which was the reason why he was watching the game against Prague from the stands, but now he is back into the starting line-up. Joe Cole, who has been suffering from injuries and struggling for form, might get a start against his former club; a game against West Ham will surely do good for the player.
Probable Starting Lineup: Reina, Carragher, Skrtel, Kelly, Johnson, Gerrard, Lucas, Cole, Kuyt, Meireles, Suarez.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Luis Suarez (Liverpool): The Uruguayan is already being considered as a local hero and all eyes are on the player, waiting for him to erupt and start pouring in the goals. Upton Park could be his next challenge.
The HardTackle’s PREDICTION
West Ham United 0 – 2 Liverpool
Considering Liverpool’s recent performances and West Ham’s injuries woes, the Reds should be able to return from Upton Park with three points.