Liverpool vs West Ham
TV: Sky Sports
Referee: Anthony Taylor
West Ham travel to Liverpool on the opening Sunday of the new Premier League season, with an early kick-off televised event.
Both sides look distinctly differen; they have made changes to their squads and their management teams. They will be fresh and invigorated and it is my view they will put on a good show in front of the Anfield faithful.
Liverpool and West Ham have been the top two sides in the Premier League this summer making serious movement in the transfer market. Both sides have smashed their previous transfer records and have improved their starting elevens drastically. This bodes well for a very open game, with both sides demanding a good start to their respective seasons.
With the last four meetings not seeing any less than four goals, this looks to be a very entertaining and attacking encounter. West Ham will seek some revenge here having been beaten 4-1, 1-4 and 0-4 in the last three head to heads. Manuel Pellegrini also has some budding revenge to take, having only beaten Liverpool twice during his tenure at Manchester City in eight meetings.
Liverpool have brought in new goal keeper Alisson Becker, two new central midfielders in Fabio Tavares ‘Fabinho’ and Naby Keita and a wide man in Xherdan Shaqiri. Huge strength added to the starting XI, in areas where Liverpool seemed to be lacking last season, with Shaqiri providing added depth. Liverpool fans and Liverpool themselves will be delighted with their summer transfer action, from a fans perspective, I know I certainly am.
Liverpool travelled far and wide in their preseason build up, from Birkenhead to Blackburn, Charlotte, Michigan to Dublin and finally back to Anfield. They’ve played nine games and scored 27 goals during this period and conceded eight. They managed to win seven, draw one and lose just one. Their biggest and most notable results came against Manchester United (4-1), Manchester City (2-1), Napoli (5-0) and a loss to Dortmund (1-3).
Looking back to the ever-distant World Cup, eight players represented Liverpool across seven nations in Russia. Liverpool’s captain Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold (England), Roberto Firmino (Brazil), Mo Salah (Egypt), Sadio Mane (Senegal), Simon Mignolet (Belgium), Marko Grujic (Serbia) and Dejan Lovren (Croatia). It is unlikely Jordan Henderson or Dejan Lovren will be involved given their exertions in Russia, having reached the semi-final and final respectively.
Liverpool will be expected to give starts to three of their four new signings, with Shaqiri potentially set to make an impact appearance on the day from the bench. A revitalised Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson are expected to make the match day squad.
Klopp stated after the final preseason game against Torino that Joe Gomez is likely to be fit for the weekend, with Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan set to miss the opening game week. James Milner’s spot may be up for grabs after the head injury which forced him off against Napoli. I’m sure Lallana, Gini Wijnaldum and possibly Shaqiri will be the likely competition there.
West Ham on the other hand have had a squad overhaul and have pulled off deals for central figure Jack Wilshere, wide men Andriy Yarmolenko and Felipe Anderson, Lukasz Fabianski between the sticks and also Issa Diop, Ryan Fredericks and Fabian Balbuena to bolster their defensive options. After years of West Ham fans dealing with almost the bare minimum, they have seen their best transfer window in some time, improving their starting XI drastically with six of their seven signings looking to go straight into the line-up. Even as a non-West Ham fan, I am looking forward to seeing a transformed side under Manuel Pellegrini.
West Ham did a fair bit of travelling themselves, playing in Switzerland, Wycombe, Birmingham and Austria for the Betway Cup. Playing seven games, scoring 12 goals and conceding eight led them to winning four, drawing two and losing one. Their most notable wins came against Aston Villa (3-1) and Ipswich (2-1) but they also prevailed in the Betway Cup, beating Mainz on penalties.
Taking into consideration the World Cup, West Ham had three participants at the time, with Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal), Joao Mario (Portugal) and Javier Hernandez (Mexico). With Kouyate moving to Crystal Palace, Mario returning to Inter Milan and Chicharito’s exit at the first hurdle in the knockout stages, West Ham should be ready to impress from the off.
Many of the new boys are expected to come straight into the starting places for West Ham with some familiar faces leading the line and a mixture of new and old stepping into the back line. Angelo Ogbonna and Pedro Obiang’s places will possibly facing some competition, with the young and upcoming Declan Rice pushing for a place either in defence or in a defensive midfield position. Andy Carroll, Manuel Lanzini and Winston Reid are all expected to be out for a couple of months and Manuel Pellegrini seems to think Yarmalenko is ready to face Liverpool in the opener, after earlier doubts.
So, with all that being said, here’s the predicted line-ups and formations for both sides, taking into consideration players available and preseason friendlies.
Liverpool: 4-3-3 formation
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Keita, Milner; Mane, Firmino, Salah
West Ham: 4-1-3-2 formation
Fabianski; Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Masuaku; Obiang; Wilshere, Anderson, Yarmolenko; Arnautovic, Chicharito
Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 West Ham.
Goals from Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Naby Keita and Marko Arnautovic.