Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool visit the London Stadium to entertain West Ham United as they continue their battle to seal a place in next season’s UEFA Champions League.
Champions League qualification is the agenda for Klopp and after drawing at home to Southampton, the German will be looking at nothing short of three points on their first visit to the London Stadium.
That said, Liverpool’s recent history with West Ham indicates things won’t be any easier for them on Sunday. Since taking over the reigns at the club, Slaven Bilic has come away with 2 wins and a draw from his three encounters against the Reds.
The Hammers may have endured a largely mediocre season this time around but their victory over city rivals Tottenham Hotspur last week will have sounded a timely reminder to Klopp regarding their capabilities.
From genuinely looking like title contenders during the first half of the season, Liverpool stumbled their way through a tumultous period in January and February when they seemingly forgot to win a game, until they eventually managed to grind their way into the midst of a top 4 challenge.
Liverpool’s campaign hasn’t been short of drama, excitement and frustration in equal measure. Jurgen Klopp’s team have certainly lacked the exuberance, confidence and ruthlessness that marked their performances early on in the season primarily owing to their frequent injury troubles.
Team News and Tactics
West Ham United
It has been a tough transition from the Boleyn to the London Stadium but during last week’s spectacular 1-0 victory over city rivals Tottenham Hotspur, the Hammers and their loyal band of supporters showed signs of warming up to their new home.
Slaven Bilic & co will be without the services of Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate. Even star-striker Andy Carroll is a potential doubt for the Saturday clash as the manager concedes it is a case of ‘touch and go’ and the team may be forced to wait until before the game to decide regarding the player’s availability.
The Hammers are limited in attacking options with Diafra Sakho out for the season and Gokhan Tore failing to see game time since December. Manuel Lanzini has been a potent attacking threat up top but with Liverpool’s noticeable weakness in the air and set-pieces, Bilic would love to line-up Carroll against his former team.
The Londoners also have the services of Andre Ayew and 23-year-old Calleri up front and will hope they can cause a shaky Reds back-line considerable problems on the night.
The Hammers are a much changed outfit from their visit to Anfield in December devoid of the services of Antonio, Ogbonna, Arbeloa and Obiang, all of whom are out for the season. The club also lost out on their creative mastermind Dimitri Payet as the player forced a move back to his former club Olympique Marseille.
However despite these numerous injury worries, West Ham have managed to put out a decent run of form and, with victory on Sunday, potentially stand the chance of jumping up to 9th spot on the Premier League table.
Possible Starting XI (3-4-1-2) : Adrian; Fonte, Collins, Reid; Byram, Fernandes, Nordtveit, Cresswell; Lanzini; Ayew, Calleri.
With two games left to play, it’s surprising that Liverpool have yet failed to nail down their top four place yet. From having their Champions League firmly in their hands to throwing it away until eventually having it handed back to them, Liverpool’s challenge has been a comical case of passing the parcel.
Klopp, though, will want to have none of these nervous games as they approach their penultimate fixture in a tricky tie against West Ham. The Reds could potentially be without the services of Roberto Firmino and Lucas Leiva as they were case as fitness doubts by Jurgen Klopp.
Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana, both of whom came off the bench last week, should be expected to start in their absence. The former has scored goals and tormented West Ham in the past and it’s an experience Liverpool should look to pounce upon.
The Reds’ 4-3-3 formation has been hardly enough to penetrate compact opposition in recent weeks especially with the absence of players like Sadio Mane and Jordan Henderson.
Klopp has spoken about playing Coutinho in a more central role in his press conference on Friday and that could potentially mean the adopting of a 4-3-1-2 line-up with the Brazilian lining up behind Sturridge and Origi up top.
Whether England international Daniel Sturridge’s loyalties lie at Liverpool at the end of the transfer window or not, there is little questioning his striking prowess and Klopp has to optimize it at a time when goals have been in scarce supply for the Reds.
Possible Starting XI (4-4-2 Diamond) : Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner; Lallana, Can, Wijnaldum, Coutinho; Origi, Sturridge.
- West Ham are unbeaten in five league and cup games against Liverpool, winning three of those matches. They have never gone six matches undefeated against the Reds.
- The Hammers have won their last three home games against Liverpool.
- The Reds have kept one clean sheet in their last 10 Premier League visits to West Ham, in a 3-0 victory in May 2009.
- None of the last 11 Premier League meetings in east London have ended level, with West Ham winning four and Liverpool claiming seven victories since a 1-1 draw in December 2001.
- If Liverpool win at the London Stadium, it will be the 52nd different venue where they have claimed a Premier League victory, more than any other side.
Player to watch out for
Liverpool FC: Daniel Sturridge
Should he play, Daniel Sturridge will definitely be the man to watch out for the Reds. The 27-year-old was effective when he came off the bench for the Reds last week against a compact Southampton side and nearly managed to earn the winner for them.
With a lack of goals in the team off-late, Liverpool could use a genuine strike up-top to finish off the business at the London Stadium.
West Ham United 0-2 Liverpool FC
Yes, it may seem like a bold prediction in hindsight keeping in mind the Reds frailties in defence and their dubious record against the Hammers, but they have occasionally shown the ability to keep things tight at the back. With Champions League qualification on their minds one would expect the players to amp it up and deliver the goods for their side.
That said, it will be no surprise if West Ham manage to give the Reds a scare they don’t need, and at this stage one they absolutely cannot afford especially when Manchester City and Arsenal are right under their skins for the top 4 places.