WEST HAM UNITED
December 7, 2013; 15:00 GMT
Liverpool FC are currently in the midst of a crucial portion of their season; as they negotiate a set of fixtures that could prove to be the difference in their quest for Champions League football. On the other hand, West Ham United visit Anfield on the back of a loss at Crystal Palace and currently sit perilously close to the relegation zone. Both teams need points. The important question that will be answered on Saturday, is who will get the result that they need?
Team News and Tactics
Despite question marks over their midfield, an overreliance on ‘SAS’ and Philippe Coutinho, and the constant chopping and changing defence, Liverpool currently find themselves in the Top 4 in the first week of December. West Ham United’s visit to Anfield on Saturday, however, represents the type of games that Liverpool must win in order to make it to the Champions League next season. The Reds were woeful in their first ever defeat to Hull City on Sunday, but bounced back with a thumping win over Norwich City masterminded by Luis Suarez. The important question is which Liverpool will turn up on Saturday.
Given the strength in numbers Liverpool are endowed with, in defence, due to the summer spending spree, manager Brendan Rodgers has rotated defenders with the aim of ensuring match fitness thus far. However, the lack of coordination in their 3-1 defeat at the KC Stadium prompted Rodgers to acknowledge that deciding his first choice partnership for the next few weeks is the priority. While the Agger-Skrtel combo did not completely convince everyone, the confidence gained from the midweek win could prompt Brendan Rodgers to retain them in central defence. There should be no changes up front and at full back positions, while Lucas is likely to come into the side in place of Raheem Sterling, who played the entire 90 minutes on Wednesday. Joe Allen could start yet again, as will Jordan Henderson.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-3-3): Mignolet; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Flanagan; Lucas, Gerrard, Allen; Henderson, Coutinho, Suarez
West Ham United
This game could prove to be among the more interesting ones between the two sides in recent times, due to the number of players associated with both sides. While right back Glen Johnson is a graduate of West Ham United’s famous academy; Stewart Downing and Joe Cole were playing for Liverpool not long ago. However, it is another other former Liverpool player, Andy Carroll, who is at the centre of the problems West Ham United have faced this season. While the transfer fees paid for the Geordie are not his fault, his continued absence due to injury has meant that Sam Allardyce’s gamble of trusting the former Newcastle striker to the job up front has backfired massively this season. However, despite Big Sam’s propensity to send out a striker-less starting eleven of late, he is likely to deploy Modibo Maiga up front in order to push Liverpool’s defenders deeper.
The biggest blow to the Hammers’ preparations for the game on Saturday is the absence of Ravel Morrison. The former Manchester United midfielder has escaped a stronger penalty for shoving Joel Ward after full time at Crystal Palace, but will still miss the trip to Liverpool as he has already accumulated 5 yellow cards. Hence, one can expect to see familiar names in the midfield five – Mohamed Diame and Mark Noble sitting at the base of the midfield with Kevin Nolan just ahead of them; while Stewart Downing and Matt Jarvis hope to keep Liverpool’s full backs occupied on the wings. The namesakes, James Collins and James Tomkins should keep their places in the centre of defence in the absence of New Zealander Winston Reid, as well the experienced Jussi Jääskeläinen.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Jääskeläinen; Demel, Tomkins, Collins, Rat; Noble, Diame; Downing, Nolan, Jarvis; Maiga
- Liverpool have scored at least 4 goals in their last 3 home matches in the Premier League.
- Liverpool have kept 1 clean sheet in their last 12 competitive games, including the defeat at Old Trafford to Manchester United in the Capital One Cup.
- Luis Suarez is currently the top scorer in the Premier League, with 13 goals in only 9 appearances.
- West Ham have failed to score in 6 of their last 8 away matches in the Premier League. They have also failed to win 11 of their last 12 away matches in the Premier League.
Player To Watch
Addressing the press after the injury to Daniel Sturridge, Brendan Rodgers said that Liverpool cannot afford to rely solely on Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez for goals. It turns out that he was completely wrong on Wednesday, as Suarez singlehandedly destroyed his favourite whipping boys Norwich City in a performance that escaped description from all sorts of superlatives. It was truly the performance of a lifetime. While it might be too much to ask for the same one more time, one can reasonably expect Suarez to be his lively self when West Ham come calling.
Liverpool 3-1 West Ham United
Liverpool have experienced mixed fortunes in a relatively hectic week, given that they had to play 3 matches in the space of 7 days. West Ham United have also experienced a mixed week – ushering Martin Jol out of Fulham with a 3-0 defeat, while dropping precious points at Selhurst Park to prime relegation candidates Crystal Palace. While the Hammers are strong in defence, they are struggling to score the goals that will keep the pressure off manager Sam Allardyce. Expect West Ham to sit back and invite Liverpool to attack with the hope of escaping with a draw. While this earned them a draw back in April 2013, Liverpool should win comfortably if they play the way they did against Norwich City.
Blast From The Past