In the last ten league matches against West Ham at Anfield Liverpool has clocked up eight wins and two draws. The winning streak must continue when the two sides face each other at L4 this afternoon. A home win would take the Reds up to seventh, leapfrogging West Ham and if Tottenham loses points at West Bromwich Liverpool climbs to sixth.
After a shoddy start to the campaign Liverpool has sprung to life in recent weeks. The team has played well and avoided defeat in the last six league fixtures. Okay, the goalscoring is still not of required standard and the defence keeps making unnecessary mistakes but there is a distinct improvement in both aspects.
Now it´s time to push on and not let things slip away. I recently wrote that the games versus Chelsea in the League Cup, Bolton in the FA Cup and West Ham in the league would define our season. The elimination in the League Cup was not a good way to start the defining. Now it has to pick up. Only a victory against West Ham is permitted. If we drop points then the top four challenge gets a major, maybe unrepairable, dent. The Londoners have been playing really well this season and are at the moment one point ahead of Liverpool and one place above us in the table. Time to put things right.
It won´t be a walk in the park. West Ham is a completely different side from last season. Their attacking play has improved massively. Last season they scored a total of 40 league goals. After 22 games this time around they have managed to score 35. So Liverpool has to be on their defensive toes to stop players lile Diafra Sakho, Enner Valencia, Morgan Amalfitano and not forgetting former Liverpool boys Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing. They are on top of their game, scoring goals and this season they have played a lot better than they ever did at Liverpool. I´m sure they would love to put one over Liverpool, especially as their departure from Anfield weren´t particularly amicable. The West Ham defence is also hard to penetrate, 25 goals conceded in 22 games is slightly better than Liverpool.
However, Liverpool should win. If the Reds can play like we did versus Chelsea then the visitors are in for an unpleasant experience. Liverpool was aggressive, intense and worked like slaves against Chelsea. The same again and more lethal finishing added then the home win is a dead cert. Our attacking wizards Adam Lallana, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling will be too hot to handle.
My recipe is: be bold, attack like mad and go for the jugular from the off. If we let West Ham settle and feel they have got a chance then anything can happen. But a determined and brave Liverpool directly setting a high tempo will make the visiting wall crumble. Liverpool has a had a bad habit of starting sluggish against teams we ought to beat and that has proved detrimental. Both Hull and Sunderland came to Anfield and managed 0-0 draws just because Liverpool played too slow and thought things would take care of themselves. Well, they never do in football. Only the right approach, the pacy and dynamic, will do the trick.
Besides the importance of three points the Reds have score to settle with West Ham. In September the Hammers beat us 3-1 and had a 2-0 lead after seven minutes. A shock we never recovered from. Let them taste their own medicine this time.
Revenge is one thing to lean on, statistic is another. Liverpool has got an overwhelming record at Anfield versus the Londoners. In the last 41 league games at L4 Liverpool has won 30 and drawn the other eleven. Just three times in 56 league games has West Ham been able to win in Liverpool. Both teams know this and such incredible numbers will surely give Liverpool a massive mental advantage.
So a lot of factors indicates that Liverpool will win but the main thing is to make sure our quality shines through. Then another step in the right direction will take place.
As Liverpool are at their best when attacking I´d go for this team today:
GK: Simon Mignolet. RB: Emre Can. CB: Martin Skrtel. LB: Dejan Lovren. DM: Lucas Leiva. RM: Steven Gerrard. CM: Jordan Henderson. LM: Jordon Ibe. RF: Adam Lallana. CF: Raheem Sterling. LF: Philippe Coutinho.
Mamadou Sakho is probabaly out injured and since we lack good alternatives as left defender I would put Lovren back in the team. Alberto Moreno is too attack-minded to be considered in a back three and Glen Johnson not good enough. Lately Gerrard has operated a bit to the right and he knows this midfield position well. Right now it´s best for the team to have him there. Lazar Markovic has been doing well in that position but needs a rest.
I would let Ibe get a game, after all what´s the point bringing him back from his loan period if not playing him. I think his speed and trickery could take West Ham by surprise. He is also a hard worker and can be useful defensively. I don´t think Daniel Sturridge will start, it´s too soon, but if he can get 15 minutes it would be big boost for him, Liverpool and fans. Perhaps he can get the winning goal as:
We Go again.