West Ham United vs Liverpool
Venue: London Stadium
Referee: Craig Pawson
Two teams who have enjoyed strong starts to the season clash on Sunday afternoon in a game which could have huge implications for their respective ambitions this campaign.
West Ham currently sit in fourth, level on points with Manchester City and just two points behind their opponents on Sunday, Liverpool. The Hammers have been excellent so far this campaign and have lost just one of their last ten matches in all competitions. The East Londoners sit at the top of their Europa League group and are in the the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup, having knocked out both Manchester clubs in the two previous rounds. Their domestic and European form represent a superb start to the campaign for David Moyes and his charges.
Sunday’s visitors Liverpool are yet to lose a match this season on both domestic and continental fronts, yet find themselves three points behind high-flying Chelsea having drawn three of their last five in the league. The Reds have already safely negotiated their passage through a tricky Champions League group as group winners, which will allow Jurgen Klopp ample opportunity for squad rotation further down the line. The Merseysiders’ sole focus between now and Christmas will be the Premier League.
If the Irons can end Liverpool’s unbeaten run, it will lay down a marker that they could challenge Manchester United for a Champions League qualifying spot. They will have seen how Liverpool capitulated against Brighton at Anfield last weekend. 2-0 up and cruising, the Liverpool of this season have a habit of taking their foot off the gas and allowing their opponents a route back into the game, and that’s exactly what happened as the Seagulls capitalised on some sloppy defending and poor game management from the Reds to draw 2-2. In this day and age, there is too much quality in the Premier League to be passive and coast through matches. Teams such as Brighton have more than enough capability to punish you.
The Hammers have a poor record against Liverpool as of late, having not won since February 2016. After eight defeats and two draws in the last ten games between the two sides, Moyes will know his side will be up against it if they are to end their barren run.
Moyes stated that Andriy Yarmolenko and Nikola Vlasic face last fitness tests ahead of Sunday, but it is unlikely either will have troubled what is a very settled starting XI. The main selection headache for the West Ham boss comes at right-back, as he must choose between long-term first choice Vladimir Coufal or his deputy Ben Johnson. The latter has been excellent since he filled in for the Czech, culminating in an excellent goal against Aston Villa last weekend. Johnson should consider himself hard done by if he is dropped for the more experienced Coufal.
Liverpool’s injury list grew in the week with Roberto Firmino suffering from a serious hamstring injury that will rule him out for over a month. Diogo Jota will join Mo Salah and Sadio Mane up front, and there will be greater opportunities for Divock Origi and Taki Minamino off the bench in Firmino’s absence. Joe Gomez is missing through a calf injury and Curtis Jones joined Naby Keita, James Milner and Harvey Elliot on the midfield absentee list. Both Fabinho and Thiago featured in midweek after spells out through injury in a huge boost to Klopp, but is likely only the former will start in East London, with Fabinho set to join Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain up front. It remains to be seen whether Ibrahima Konate or Joel Matip will partner Virgil van Dijk going forward.
Predicted Starting XIs:
West Ham (4-2-3-1): Fabianski; Johnson, Zouma, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Rice, Soucek; Bowen, Benrahma, Fornals; Antonio
Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Salah, Jota, Mane
Score Prediction: West Ham 1-2 Liverpool
The visitors’ strong recent record against the Hammers could be crucial come Sunday and give them a slight edge in what should be a very close affair. This game will provide an interesting assessment of whether West Ham can push for a Champions League spot this season and if Liverpool’s injury problems will prevent them from winning the Premier League. With Salah, Mane and Jota all in scintillating form, particularly away from home, I fancy the Reds to edge this one.