The misty eyed football historian may well remember the day when Liverpool, along with teams such as Preston North End, Huddersfield Town and Portsmouth, were serious contenders for top flight league honours. In fact, for a time in the not too distant past, when footballers posed beside Ford Capris, advertised hair grooming products and sported flared trousers and moustaches, the men from Anfield were something of a dominant force. Then suddenly, before anyone realised that simply appointing ex-players to the managerial boot-room didn’t guarantee success, the Premier League circus had begun and money started to talk in a Manc rather than Scouse accent; the media’s favourite club became marooned in the doldrums.
There have been a few occasions where they threatened to clamber back up the league ladder but ultimately there has always been a snake (or a Steven Gerrard slip) to see them tumble back down again. Liverpool are the northern equivalent of Tottenham, better than many other teams in the league but nowhere near as good as their fans believe them to be. With Arsenal’s win at Stoke last night it puts further pressure on Liverpool’s quest for a top four finish and so it is appropriate that West Ham have the opportunity to put the kibosh on both team’s seasonal aspirations in successive weeks at the London Stadium.
He (Noble) played through the pain and with that pain and it became a bit worse. Kouyate has a wrist problem, he played through a lot of pain. We made a plan for him to play as much as possible, but it became worse.
– Slav explains injuries becoming worse
Our own season has been one heavily weighted towards disappointment. As it reaches its conclusion there is not a great deal to look back on with pride apart from that victory over Tottenham and the EFL cup defeat of Chelsea. Once again no Hammer, bar a late flurry, will get even half way to mythical 20 goals per season and after a first ever Premier League positive goal difference last term we are firmly back in deficit territory. Hopefully a little of last week’s energy and enterprise will be carried forward to today so that the season doesn’t finally fizzle out on a depressing low point.
Head to Head
No West Ham supporter needs to be told how dreadful our record away to Liverpool is but may not be aware that they also hold the advantage in matches played on our own turf; a win for the Hammers today though would even things up at 22 wins apiece from 59 attempts and a 4-0 win would also restore goal parity at the same time. West Ham are, however, on a tidy little run against the Reds with three wins and two draws in the last five; and still to lose against a Jurgen Klopp side.
Depending on whether Arthur Masuaku is fit or not then it could be up to eight first team players on the sick list for West Ham. Probably at least six of those missing in action would get into most supporters preferred starting elevens. It does seem a little odd that our two more defensively minded midfielders have been playing with injuries for some time but couldn’t hold out for another week or so before electing for surgery; maybe there are valid medical reasons.
With what remains (and with potential replacements still out on loan) it would appear that the team pretty much picks itself with Nordtveit and Fernandes coming in for Kouyate and Noble. I have high hopes for Fernandes but he is not a defensive midfield player and I worry that it is a fragile pairing against the likes of Coutinho and Lallana; not that I can see any other options as Slaven fills out his team sheet. I guess another start for non-scoring striker, Calleri, is inevitable but hope that Fletcher gets more than a last five minutes today.
Everything is still in our hands. All the teams have to play tough games and no-one wins all of them. Now we have to win ours and it will be fine.
– Jurgen Klopp
Liverpool are without Mané, Henderson and, possibly, Firmino. They are certainly not the same team in Mané’s absence. There is a lot of speculation about whether Sturridge gets a start against a side that is rumoured to be interested in his signature. Sturridge has a decent scoring record but whether an injury prone striker with a questionable attitude is precisely what is needed is a matter of opinion.
The Man in the Middle
Please welcome Neil Swarbrick from Lancashire making his third London Stadium appearance of the season having kept whistle for previous unbeaten home games against Middlesbrough & Crystal Palace. In his 31 outings this term he has contributed 116 yellow and 3 red cards.