With Liverpool set to host West Ham United this Saturday, the game could be huge in the race for Top Four as the Reds have been presented with a chance to leap into second. A win would take Jurgen Klopp’s side to 57 points, while Chelsea and Manchester United are set to clash on Sunday. A Chelsea win would see Liverpool go above United should they defeat West Ham – ahead of this match, here are three talking points worth discussing.
1. Firmino’s Fine Form
Cast your mind back to the summer, some fans were concerned about the attacking options present at the club – in particular, the focal point. Firmino had been criticised for not being a “20+ league goal a season striker”, with his most prolific season a 16 goal tally at Hoffenheim in 2013/14 (22 in all competitions, six goals in the DFB Pokal). While this is an impressive record alone, Firmino has gone on to improve even further.
The Brazilian has 33 goals contributions in 37 appearances so far this season and has been integral to Jurgen Klopp’s tactical setup. Firmino is a complete manifestation of the manager’s ideas, a forward that presses relentlessly, brings others into the game and is clinical in front of goal. Earning Liverpool’s player of the month award, Firmino has scored five goals since the turn of the year and has been as good, if not better, than Mohamed Salah.
2. Manuel Lanzini Could Potentially Start
Deemed the natural successor to Philippe Coutinho, Manuel Lanzini is in the mould of the former Liverpool man and was heavily linked to the club in January. Currently suffering from a hamstring injury, Lanzini has missed West Ham’s last three matches – while the acquisition of Joao Mario has helped soften the blow of his absence, the Hammers have definitely missed the Argentine.
Bagging two goals against Huddersfield before limping off an hour into the following Bournemouth match, Lanzini was on the verge of a purple patch. However, he could return to face Liverpool this weekend according to manager David Moyes who said: “Lanzini has a good chance of being involved after recovering from his hamstring injury and that is great for us because we will need him in the weeks to come”. Whether Moyes will err on the side of caution remains to be seen but Lanzini will be the main danger man for West Ham should he feature.
3. Our Best CB Partnership?
With the introduction of Virgil Van Dijk, the biggest debate is who should partner him as part of the backline. The general consensus is that Dejan Lovren is best suited to playing alongside Van Dijk – previously, Lovren was expected to be the ball playing defender but now he can solely focus on his defensive duties. Lovren has previously struggled with being overwhelmed, too many duties and tasked with leading the team lead to him making basic errors but Klopp has instructed him to go back to basics and Lovren has performed much better since.
Joel Matip remains a solid choice at the back, but based on recent form the Croatian has arguably been in better form. Matip is susceptible to mistakes in the same way Lovren is but has not been exposed to the same level of criticism until recently. Van Dijk’s place in the side for the immediate future is untouchable, his confidence, composure and coordination make him the ideal man to lead the Liverpool defence – who will lineup alongside him is still in contention.