After missing the opportunity to further extend their lead at the top of the Premier League table with a disappointing draw to Leicester last time out, Liverpool travel to the London Stadium on Monday night hoping to further push their hope for a first league title in 29 years.
There is no disputing the fact that the Reds really needed to capitalise on Man City’s shock loss to Newcastle on Tuesday night by taking all three points off the Foxes and extending their lead to 7 points but the post-match meltdown from some did seem somewhat ridiculous. Liverpool are a point better off than they were last time round and West Ham marks an ideal opponent to prove that they belong at the summit of the table.
There seemed to be an air of anxiety around Anfield on Wednesday night — from both fans and on the pitch — but it’s crucial to remember that Liverpool deserve to be top of the league and need to relish the title run-in.
Yet with Man City and now Spurs hoping to close the gap in what is turning out to be one of the most exciting title races in recent memory, 3 points is a necessity come tomorrow evening.
Amidst the bizarre transfer saga surrounding Marko Arnautovic, who has now decided to commit his future to the Hammers, West Ham have looked increasingly poor lately, particularly from a defensive standpoint.
Currently sitting in 12th place in the league, Manuel Pellegrini’s side have lost three in a row in all competitions, including a 3-0 loss to Wolves last time out, where they failed to even register a shot on target. An embarrassing 4-2 FA Cup exit to AFC Wimbledon also marked arguably the lowest point of their season with little left to fight for, despite a Europa League spot remaining a distant possibility.
A return to the London Stadium will be welcomed for the home side however, having picked up a 1-0 win over Arsenal last time out and looking for a third consecutive home win for the first time since leaving Upton Park.
Felipe Anderson remains the one to watch for the hosts, with the Brazilian showing flashes of a really excellent player since his arrival from Lazio in the summer, while Marko Arnautovic should be fit enough to feature in spite of him limping off against Wolves on Tuesday.
Last Meeting (Liverpool 4 West Ham 0, August 12th 2018):
Liverpool’s last encounter with the Hammers came on the opening day of the season, with a comprehensive 4-0 win at Anfield starting the campaign off in style.
It was a torrid performance from West Ham, who failed to show up, with Mo Salah opening the scoring in the first half, before a brace from Sadio Mane and goal from Daniel Sturridge moments after coming on marking an emphatic victory.
It wasn’t the first time Liverpool had bested West Ham comfortably in the league and should go in with plenty of confidence having put 4 past the London side in each of the last 4 Premier League encounters.
You have to hope Monday night is a similar story.
James Milner marks his return from suspension after getting sent off against Crystal Palace and should slot in again at right-back as Trent Alexander-Arnold continues to edge closer to match fitness.
Joe Gomez suffered another set-back with the news that surgery could be required on the leg fracture he picked up against Burnley back in December, which comes as a massive blow, with Gomez now certain to miss the last-16 clash with Bayern Munich in the Champions League as well.
Dejan Lovren could also be a doubt after a niggling hamstring issue has resurfaced, which means a centre-back partnership of Virgil Van Dijk and Joel Matip seems a certainty.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Rhian Brewster remain long-term absentees.
There remains a long-list of casualties for the home side with Jack Wilshere, Fabian Balbuena, Andriy Yarmolenko, Winston Reid, Carlos Sanchez, Samir Nasri and Manuel Lanzini side-lined with various issues.
On the plus side for West Ham, injuries to both Lukas Fabianski and Aaron Cresswell aren’t nearly as bad as initially feared and they could feature, while Marko Arnautovic should be a part of the substitutes after going off against Wolves.
Lucas Perez could be set to make his return from injury as well.
Fabianski, Zabaleta, Diop, Ogbonna, Masuaku, Snodgrass, Noble, Rice, Anderson, Antonio, Hernandez
Alisson, Milner, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mane
West Ham 0 Liverpool 3