Two of the biggest spenders in the summer window will clash against each other, as Liverpool face West Ham United in their Premier League opener on Sunday.
Liverpool will kick off their 2018-19 Premier League campaign against Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United at the Anfield on Sunday.
After finishing fourth in the league and missing out on the UEFA Champions League triumph last season, the Merseysiders wasted no time in strengthening their ranks ahead of the new season. Jurgen Klopp’s men spent in excess of £170 million this summer on four new recruits and the German manager will hope that it helps his team bridge the gap to champions Manchester City.
The Reds just lost a single game during their pre-season campaign, beaten 3-1 by Klopp’s former club Borussia Dortmund. They registered impressive victories against rivals City and Manchester United and come into the game after having defeated Torino 3-1 earlier this week.
West Ham United too went on a bit of a summer shopping spree, bringing in as many as nine players in the summer transfer window, spending close to £115 million. Having let go of David Moyes, the Hammers have handed over the reins to a former Premier League winning manager in the form of Pellegrini and will be hoping to improve on their last season’s outcome.
The East Londoners won four of their seven pre-season fixtures, with the latest match ending in a 1-0 triumph over French outfit Angers last Friday. They will be keen on carrying the momentum into Sunday’s game and begin the new season with a victory against Liverpool.
Team News & Tactics
New signing Fabinho is a doubt to be involved at the weekend, having been taken ill earlier this week. Veteran midfielder James Milner should be available for selection, after receiving 15 stitches in the head wound he sustained against Napoli last week.
Dejan Lovren will sit this one out, having returned only recently from an extended vacation post the World Cup, while fellow defenders Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan are also likely to miss out. England international Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remains a long-term absentee.
Having arrived from AS Roma in a mega money deal this summer, goalkeeper Alisson Becker is set to make his Premier League debut against the Hammers. Trent Alexander-Arnold should start at right-back ahead of fellow Englishman Nathaniel Clyne, while Andrew Robertson has the left-back spot nailed down for himself.
Club record signing Virgil van Dijk will feature in the heart of the defence. In Lovren’s absence, Joe Gomez is likely to partner the Dutchman, having recovered from a minor injury that saw him miss the Torino game.
With Fabinho’s involvement under a doubt, Klopp will call upon captain Jordan Henderson to shield his backline, despite the Englishman returning recently from vacation. Georginio Wijnaldum should be in line for a start, after scoring in the last game, while the third midfield slot will be occupied by Guinean powerhouse Naby Keita.
The fearsome attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane will remain intact and will look to carry on from where they left off last season.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Keita; Salah, Firmino, Mane;
West Ham United
The Hammers will go into the game with a number of first-team regulars missing. Winston Reid, Manuel Lanzini and Andy Carroll are all ruled out of Sunday’s game, while deadline day signings Carlos Sanchez and Lucas Perez are unlikely to be thrust into action straight away.
Pellegrini too is likely to use a 4-3-3 setup just like his Liverpool counterpart this weekend. New signing Lukasz Fabianski should edge Adrian out for a spot under the crossbar at Anfield. Another new arrival, Ryan Fredericks, is in line to make his debut at right-back, while Aaron Cresswell will hold on to his place on the opposite side.
In the heart of the defence, former Juventus man Angelo Ogbonna will pair up with new signing Issa Diop and look to quell the threat offered by the Liverpool attackers.
In the middle of the park, Spaniard Pedro Obiang should get the nod ahead of club captain Mark Noble, while Jack Wilshere, who arrived on a free transfer from Arsenal, will make his debut for the East Londoners on Sunday. The third midfield slot is likely to be occupied by the young Declan Rice, who has been making quite a name for himself lately.
Up ahead, two of the most exciting summer additions for West Ham, Andriy Yarmolenko and Felipe Anderson should take up the right and the left flanks respectively and look to cause problems to the Liverpool backline with their guile and creativity. Marko Arnautovic is likely to spearhead the attack, ahead of Javier Hernandez.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Fabianski; Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Obiang, Rice, Wilshere; Yarmolenko, Arnautovic, Anderson;
- Liverpool have won each of their last three league games against West Ham, scoring four goals in each of those victories; they’ve never scored 4+ goals in four consecutive top-flight games against a single opponent.
- Against no other side have West Ham lost more top-flight games than against Liverpool (61, level with Everton).
- Sadio Mane has been directly involved in four goals in his three Premier League appearances for Liverpool against West Ham (1 goal, 3 assists).
- New West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini has lost more Premier League games against Liverpool than he has against any other opponent in the competition (P6 W2 D0 L4).
- West Ham have won only one of their last 45 top-flight visits to Anfield to face Liverpool (D12 L32), with that win coming in August 2015 (3-0).
- Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.90
- Over 10.5 Corners @ 1.83
- Team Shots on Target – West Ham Over 2.5 @ 1.66
- Result – Draw or West Ham @ 4.00
Player to watch
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
The Egyptian forward reigned supreme over defences in the Premier League last season, scoring goals for fun. Salah finished his debut campaign for Liverpool with 32 league goals, on his way to winning the Golden Boot award, while he bagged 12 more goals in the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League combined.
He will once again be Liverpool’s biggest threat going forward in the new season. And if he continues in the same way as he did in the previous campaign, the West Ham defence will be in for a tough outing on Sunday.
Liverpool 3-0 West Ham United
Both teams have spent heavily in the summer and have recruited some quality players. However, Liverpool will find themselves placed much better than their weekend opponents, considering that the core of their team remains same from the last term, while the Hammers are likely to hand debuts to as many as six new faces on Sunday.
Moreover, the Liverpool attack has looked in fine nick during the pre-season, which doesn’t bode well for Pellegrini’s men. As a result, we at The Hard Tackle predict an easy 3-0 victory for Klopp’s side in their opening fixture of the new season.