Liverpool continue their title push on Sunday, April 6 with a trip to Upton Park to face West Ham for Matchday 33 of the English Premier League.
Brendan Rodgers’ team started the season targeting a top-four finish and Champions League qualification. But after eight straight wins and an unbeaten run in 2014, the Reds are not only genuine title contenders, but they will win the league for the first time since 1990 if they manage to win their six remaining matches. West Ham on the other hand are close to securing their Premier League status, but they will look to take another step towards survival, with former Liverpool players like Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing in particular aiming to condemn their previous club to their first defeat of the calendar year. Back in December, Liverpool won 4-1 at Anfield against the Hammers, with an own goal by Guy Demel, a brace by Luis Suarez and a goal from Mamadou Sakho, while West Ham scored through a Martin Skrtel own goal.
Hammers look safe
West Ham have experienced a campaign with ups and downs during the last months, but they are looking good right now, with two consecutive wins elevating them closer to mid-table security and sparing them a relegation dogfight. Not unpredictably, Sam Allardyce’s team is characterized by a strong defense (13 clean sheets in 32 matches and 42 goals conceded, only three more than today’s opponents Liverpool). In attack, Kevin Nolan has been the most prolific up to now, but Andy Carroll returned to the goals against Sunderland and he will surely look to hurt his former club, facing them for the first time since Brendan Rodgers offloaded the towering striker. We expect a lot of crosses from the wings to exploit Carroll’s height, and surely Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger will be busy today against their England forward.
Allardyce will most probably field a 4-2-3-1 formation with Adrian in goal, a back four consisting of Demel (right), James Tomkins, Andy Reid and Pablo Armero (left), Mark Noble and Matthew Taylor as the defensive midfielders, and the trio of Downing, Nolan and Mohamed Diame supporting Carroll. Defender George McCartney is doubtful with hamstring problem, while defenders James Collins and Joey O’ Brien are out, alongside forward Marco Borriello,
Crucial game for Liverpool
After Chelsea returned to the top yesterday by beating Stoke City at home and Manchester City winning big against Southampton, Liverpool have no room for mistakes in this game, if they want to continue their quest for the title. Brendan Rodgers’ men have scored 15 times in their last four Premier League away games, and they are breaking goalscoring records this season with 88 total goals in 32 matches. This time though a clean sheet could be needed, because it is not always possible to score three away from home.
Ιn terms of team selection, we expect no major changes for Liverpool. Simon Mignolet will be in goal once again, while the back four will consist of Glen Johnson, Agger, Skrtel and Jon Flanagan. In midfield, captain Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson are certain starters, and there are two places up for grabs, with Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Joe Allen challenging for them. The league’s most deadly striking duo of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge will be in action once again.
Prediction: Liverpool are a better team and Rodgers’ tactic of looking at each match separately seems to be working. West Ham are no pushovers but we expect Luis Suarez and co. to prevail. Possible score: 1-3.