Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool FC will meet Slaven Bilic’s West Ham in the 4th round of the FA Cup. It’s their third meeting this season, with Bilic having already done the double over Klopp in the Premier League.
West Ham have been flying high this season, and have outperformed all expectations. Liverpool meanwhile have had a poor season, with even Jurgen Klopp’s appointment doing little to improve the players’ performances. With a top 4 position at the end of the season looking unlikely, the League Cup and FA Cup are all the more important tournaments for the German manager.
Bilic Knows How To Beat Klopp
Bilic seems to have Klopp’s Liverpool all figured out. Honestly it’s not like it’s a big secret. Just sit back and let them have the ball. Without Philippe Coutinho in the side, and with Christian Benteke not really gelling with the rest of the team, Liverpool tend to just pass themselves silly with little result.
In the game on 2nd January at the Boleyn Ground, Liverpool FC had 63% of the possession. But they ended up losing the game 2-0. Possession means little if it doesn’t translate into goals. The team’s forwards, Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino, have been criticised for not bringing in enough goals. But it’s just as worrying that the team seems to have little success in getting them the ball in and around the box. Equally, if not more, worrying is the fact that the midfield is contributing very few goals. With the likes of Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana, more is expected from the team.
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Klopp Will Ask His Team To Go For It, To Little Effect
After the previous loss, Jurgen Klopp’s assessment was that Liverpool did not give their 100% in the game. To put it in his own words, “In the decisive moments, we were there, but we were not there”. He tried to stress the importance of playing at a higher intensity, while at the same time ensuring full concentration at key moments in the game.
The problem is that he’s been trying to achieve this for some time now, but a mixture of injuries, fixture congestion and a lack of leaders in the squad have worked against him. A great example of this is the mid-week game against Stoke City, which Liverpool won on penalties. With the players looking dull against Stoke, Klopp will surely have to rotate some of them in the hopes of injecting some energy into his side.
Loan signing Steven Caulker may finally get to start a game, and Joe Allen has also impressed enough off the bench to warrant a starting berth. Dejan Lovren and Jordon Ibe would also be hopeful of a chance in the first 11.
Bilic’s Side Are All Business
Slaven Bilic’s biggest asset is how effective his team is at both ends of the pitch. No tiki-taka football, but his side’s finishing is amongst the best in the country. And if they manage to score, they have a solid enough defence to hold on to that lead.
In Diafra Sakho, Enner Valencia and Andy Carroll, West Ham have three rugged forwards who will get you a regular return of goals. In fact, one could say that for both the teams, only Liverpool FC are currently quite badly hurt by injuries in that part of the pitch.
West Ham Are The Favorites
As odd as it may sound, West Ham are the favourites in this match. That doesn’t mean that they will spend the match on the front foot. Bilic is likely to sit back and wait for counter attacking opportunities.
Besides his strikers, his other not-so-secret weapon is his attacking wide-men. Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini and Michail Antonio have 12 goals and 7 assists between them, and all three are versatile enough to contribute in passing, attacking, and also defending from the front.
With Liverpool stuttering, this game is there for the taking for Bilic’s West Ham.
Valencia vs Sakho
Enner Valencia scored twice against Manchester City last weekend. He’s a highly adept centre-forward, with a good eye for finishing. He will give Mamadou Sakho a torrid time, and will compete with him for every ball lofted into the box.
Payet vs Clyne
Payet is probably West Ham’s best player, and didn’t feature in West Ham’s 2-0 win over Liverpool. His dribbling ability and shooting range make him a formidable opponent, and Nathaniel Clyne will have to keep him in check. He will regularly drift inside, and the English right-back will have to make sure not to leave him unmarked.
Benteke vs Collins
James Collins might be on the wrong side of 30, but recently admitted that he might be in the best form of his life. He’ll need all his experience and possibly all his strength, to mark the muscular Christian Benteke out of the game.
Liverpool FC: Strengths & Weaknesses
There are 2 Liverpool FC sides. One is the lacklustre side that showed up to face Stoke City this week. This Liverpool side exhibits an almost disinterested aura, as they go through the motions of passing the ball around, occasionally making a weak attempt to go past an opposition player.
The other Liverpool is the one that showed up against Manchester City, earlier this season. This Liverpool is all business, and they pummel the opposition with relentless energy and drive.
The team’s chances hinge on Klopp making sure the right Liverpool FC show up for the game. The talent is there, but the manager needs to figure out how to get the best out of it on a weekly basis.
West Ham: Strengths & Weaknesses
West Ham’s full-backs will have plenty of space to run into, as the likes of Dmitri Payet cut inside towards central zones. However, as a result, they will also leave a lot of space behind them when they go forward. Liverpool will need to capiltalise on such opportunities to try and score.
West Ham has a definite leg up against Liverpool, in that their finishing has been far better as a team. One slip up by the Liverpool defence could be good enough for West Ham’s attackers to capitalise on.
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