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West Ham vs Liverpool: Match Preview

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Liverpool travel to West Ham for Saturday's late kick-off, with just two points separating the sides going into the clash.

History

Upton Park isn't generally a ground that has been kind to the Reds over the last few years. Despite taking seven points from their last three games in East London, the Merseyside club have put a number of below par performances, including a tight 3-2 win in 2012.

Triumph did go to Liverpool last season, due to two Steven Gerrard penalties during the 2-1 win.

Team News

The away side still remain without top striker Daniel Sturridge who was forced out of England's European Championship game with Switzerland due to a thigh injury he picked up on international duty - that was over two weeks ago however he is getting nurtured back to full fitness in suitable time.

Both Joe Allen and Emre Can also picked up injuries when on service for their home-lands and the latter faces at least six weeks on the side-lines, after being snapped walking out of Liverpool's training ground on crutches.

Right-back Glen Johnson remains absent after he limping off during the 3-1 away loss to Manchester City which was almost three weeks ago. However, he is due to start training with the squad again sometime next week.

Lazar Markovic returns nonetheless after being suspended for Liverpool's Champions League tie against Ludogorets Razgrad.

West Ham also face several injury problems. Andy Carroll, who signed for the Reds in £35M before being sold to the Hammers last season, is in the sick room with an ankle injury and won't be able to get any revenge on his former club.

Liverpool native and West Ham captain Kevin Nolan is also unavailable due to injury, as is midfielder Matt Jarvis and defender James Collins is set  to face a late fitness test.

However, we could see Alex Song who signed on a season long loan from Barcelona this summer start. He came on as a substitute against Hull City last game due to a lack of fitness and if that has improved the Cameroon International could be selected in Sam Allardyce's XI.

Recent form

Liverpool have been average to say the least so far this season. They have picked up two wins over Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur however lost against last season's champions Manchester City and most recently at home to Aston Villa in the Premier League.

It seems as if the Reds aren't playing with much confidence so far. In their last game against Villa, there was little creativity from play-maker Philippe Coutinho who usually pulls the strings within the midfield.

The Merseyside club also met Ludogorets Razgrad in the Champions League mid-week and put in a similar performance. They lacked the flair that was produced so often last campaign and offered little width when on the attack. When they did use the width, the Reds netted their first goal and it was frustrating that it took 82 minutes for that to click.

Add that to a poor showing in front of goal. Apart from the game against Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool have played with just one striker up top and the lone forward has severely lacked service.

Summer signing Mario Balotelli is settling into the Liverpool team extremely well, however he is in desperation of a striker up top with him.

The defence has also been shaky, with goals leaking from all directions. £20M signing Dejan Lovren has failed to settle at the back and seems to be trying too hard at times instead of getting on with his game. Questions also have to be asked about goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who was left in no man's land for Ludogorets' goal.

As for the home side, they have too struggled in defence this season. West Ham have conceded seven goals already despite a bright side against Tottenham Hotspur, including three against Southampton at Upton Park.

They are lacking a real threat going forward and desperately miss the trio of Carroll, Nolan and Jarvis. Another Liverpool cast-off, Stuart Downing, now plays his football in in East London and he hasn't done so badly so far this season, much like new-boy Enner Valencia who scored a corker during the 2-2 draw with Hull City.

Team News impact

Unfortunately, there is not much Liverpool can do with the absence of Daniel Sturridge and it may force Balotelli to lead the line alone once again.

However, with West Ham such a physical side and Liverpool playing more positively with two strikers, I'd like to see fellow recent signings Rickie Lambert make his first start. He's been on the Liverpool bench for all of the games so far and hasn't done badly when coming on as a substitute.

Both Balotelli and Lambert are big in stature and would be able to hold off the rough and tough oppositions defence. Further, both can play football on the deck and are intelligent when the ball is at their feet - Balotelli displayed this against Ludogrets as has Lambert for both Southampton and England.

It is much more likely to be Fabio Borini who comes into the side, however, if Brendan Rodgers does opt for two strikers. He came on over Lambert against Ludogorets and made himself busy, freeing up space for his fellow Italian and done well to change the game.

Philipe Coutinho is likely to drop to the bench after a string of poor games in a Red shirt. His manager said he wouldn't have played in Villa or Ludogoretsgame due to his travelling for international duty, only for Liverpool severely lacking options that forced him to be available. Coutinho out the side will allow Adam Lallana to be given a free role in the midfield for the first time in a Red shirt and he should be able to make an impact

For West Ham, Alex Song coming into the side should add vital aid to the back four who have been fairly poor so far this season. 

Match Preview

Despite Liverpool having problems at Upton Park in the past, they should prevail in this tie.

If The Hammers had the likes of Carroll and Nolan, I would really fancy them to get a result as they would be a nuisance up top, using their physicality against a rocky Liverpool back four.

Unfortunately, they are left with limited sources to threaten the Reds goal enough.

Despite Liverpool being average this season, playing two strikers is key. I think Rodgers will recognise this problem and either start Lambert or Fabio Borini up top with Balotelli.

Raheem Sterling is fast becoming of the the country's top players and he should be a serious threat for the home side's defence. Liverpool won two penalties in this fixture last season and with the pace of Sterling, it would not surprise me if they got another.

Jordan Henderson has been extremely consistent all season and his energy and passion will grind down the West Ham midfield, causing them to make mistakes - this is where Adam Lallana will come into play with his superb vision and ability to cut through defences on the counter attack.

It won't be easy work for Liverpool - West Ham still have some excellent players like Valencia and Song. However, with the Reds prevailing last season when they were poor, they should do the same again here.

West Ham 0-2 Liverpool (Balotelli and Henderson)

Predicted teams

West Ham - Adrián; Jenkinson, Tomkins, Reid, Cresswell; Noble; Kouyaté, Zárate, Song, Downing; Valencia

Liverpool -Mignolet; Manquillo, Lovren, Sakho, Moreno; Gerrard, Henderson, Lallana; Sterling, Balotelli, Borini

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Topics:
Football
Liverpool
West Ham United
Premier League

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