Football

Liverpool vs West Ham: match preview

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Liverpool look to continuing their unbeaten streak in the Premier League when they host West Ham United on Saturday afternoon.

The Reds have started the 2015/16 season in fine fashion winning two games and drawing one and sit third in the table.

West Ham began brightly under new manager Slavan Bilic but back-to-back home defeats has pulled the Croatian firmly back to reality.

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History

Liverpool have got a solid record when playing West Ham at Anfield and should head into the contest with plenty of confidence. You have to go back to September 1963 when the east London outfit last won away against the Reds and in their last five trips the Irons have lost four times and drawn just one.

In the corresponding fixture last season, strikes from Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge secured a 2-0 win for Brendan Rodgers' side.

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Team News

Sturridge came off the bench last January to secure the three points last January but he will be unavailable this time around. He's successfully underwent rehabilitation on his hip injury in America and was photographed back training at Melwood on Thursday and could be back playing midway through September.

Jordan Henderson missed Liverpool's last match against Arsenal after limping off against Bournemouth with a foot injury and it's unsure whether he will return to Rodgers' set-up or not. Adam Lallana too was absent for the trip to the Emirates and will also have a fitness assessment. Joe Allen will not feature, either. 

Andy Carroll's return to Anfield was underwhelming for West Ham last season and he'll have to wait even longer to strike against his former club. The ex-England international trained with the Hammers' squad earlier this week but is still in search of full fitness.

Diafra Sakho was on target against Liverpool in the 3-1 win at Upton Park last campaign but he suffered an groin strain last match against Bournemouth and will undergo a late fitness test. Reece Oxford is also doubtful with a thigh injury 

Enner Valencia's frustration of lack of treatment on his knee injury was well documented when he told Ecuador radio station La Deportiva that he was being neglected by West Ham's doctor. Joey O'Brien and Mauro Zarate are too set to miss the clash.

Bilic will also be without Carl Jenkinson who was sent-off against Bournemouth last weekend.

Liverpool

Rodgers has worked hard over the summer months to get his Liverpool side to gel together and they've had a superb start to the season. 

1-0 wins away against Stoke City and Bournemouth at home weren't the most inspiring of performances but it proved that there is a real resilience about the Reds this term and defended boldly throughout.

Last Monday, the Merseyside outfit had a tricky away tie to Arsenal. Many wrote Liverpool off before a ball was kicked but it was an exceptional performance overall. However, within minutes of kick-off Philippe Coutinho struck the woodwork and did so again later in the first-half and Petr Cech smartly denied Christian Benteke from close range.

Arsenal dominated the second-half but Liverpool defended admirably thwarted the constant onslaught from Arsene Wenger's side.

Lucas was given a surprise call-up at the Emirates as Rodgers looked to neutralise the attacking presence of Mesut Ozil. The Brazilian did so successfully and will likely play a key role in Liverpool's upcoming away fixtures. However, at home to West Ham it's difficult to see Lucas included once again. He's limited going forward and is relatively effective at home.

With Henderson's fitness doubtful, Emre Can will likely keep his place in the midfield and play the defensive role. Can performed well against Arsenal and his best position is just in front of the defence. He too will likely be allowed to surge forward if given the chance and James Milner will gladly defend. 

Benteke is becoming accustomed to Liverpool's style of play and is beginning to build a strong rapport with Coutinho, who was magical against the Gunners, and will make up the midfield three.

Jordon Ibe lost his place at Arsenal after starting against Stoke and Bournemouth. However, with Rodgers likely to deploy much more attacking tactics than on Monday night, the 19-year-old should gain his place back on the right-wing. 

Roberto Firmino was given his first start against Arsenal. It was no man of the match performance but the £29.5 million summer signing from Hoffenheim showed glimpses of his talent, including a cross that found Benteke on the six yard box.

Liverpool have kept three clean sheets from as many games this term. There seems to be much more stability at the back and summer signings Nathaniel Clyne and Joe Gomez have slotted in very well at right and left-back respectively. Dejan Lovren has seemingly shaken off his nerves he displayed throughout his maiden campaign and has formed a decent partnership at centre-back with Martin Skrtel. Simon Mignolet has been solid in goal, also.

Predicted Starting XI

Mignolet; Clyne, Skrtel, Lovren, Gomez; Can, Milner, Coutinho; Ibe, Firmino, Benteke

West Ham

What a turn around the Hammers have had from three weeks ago.

West Ham stunned Arsenal 2-0 away from home on the opening day of the season thanks to strikes from Cheikhou Koyate and Mauro Zarate. 16-year-old Oxford had a blinder at the Emirates that day and had Ozil in his pocket for the most part and many expected a profitable season for the new-look West Ham after Bilic's revamp.

However, progress was soon derailed when they suffered back-to-back home, first 2-1 to Leicester City and then a 4-3 thriller against Bournemouth last weekend.

Following the loss against the Cherries, Bilic pleaded that his side play with "more desire" and a better mentality. Their failure to banish unnecessary mistakes at the back is an absolute must if they are to have a successful season.

James Tompkins will likely take the place of the suspended Jenkinson and play right-back. The  centre-back pairing of Winston Read and Angelo Ogbonna will have to be on full alert to keep Benteke at bay, who looks to be improving after every game for Liverpool.

With so many injuries, it's difficult seeing Bilic lining up with two striker at Anfield. Sakho, West Ham's only recognised fit striker, was arrested arrested last week on suspicion of ‘making threats to kill and witness intimidation.’ Bilic has said he has no problem picking the 25-year-old but the striker's mental state has to be questioned and he too still may be unable to play with his groin strain.

Bilic - who knocked out Liverpool in the Europa League with Besiktas last season - will likely play a 4-5-1 formation at Anfield and would settle for a point without a ball being kicked. The consistent Mark Noble will likely play just off Sakho with Pedro Obiang anchoring the midfield and keeping tracks on Coutinho.

Predicted Starting XI

Randolph; Tomkins, Ogbonna, Reid, Cresswell; Obiang, Kouyate, Obiang, Noble, Payet, ; Sakho

Prediction

West Ham will no doubt be pleased with a point on Saturday and playing 4-5-1 will help them defend against the Liverpool onslaught.

The Reds were much improved against Arsenal and the recent form of Coutinho will no doubt cause the visitors problems from the first whistle. Firmino should be much better with the ball at his feet and having the Kop roaring him on will give him plenty of incentive.

Benteke should relish yet another week working with his team-mates and will be a handful throughout.

With Liverpool likely to have most of the ball, Sakho will be key for the visitors when they are in possession and his hold up play will have to be near perfect.

The burning issue is Liverpool's lack of goals this season. Two wins but just two goals have went in. It'll be difficult to break down West Ham's defence but, the Reds should be able to strike, and once one goes in, it's likely another will follow.

Liverpool 2-0 West Ham 

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Topics:
Football
Liverpool
West Ham United
Premier League

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