West Ham v Liverpool Preview: Reds resurgence?

Reds ran riot in this fixture last season – skysports.com

Liverpool fans have fond memories of last year’s trip to the Olympic Stadium, which saw them win 4-0, helped by a Philippe Coutinho brace. The Brazilian is a major doubt for this teatime encounter, but Daniel Sturridge, who also netted in East London last April, is starting to find form.

Odds for him to score or Liverpool to win can be found via free bets. In the 28-year-old’s last 125 minutes of football, he has scored twice and assisted once, handy timing given the Reds’ shortage of options in forward areas. For all the criticism of Jurgen Klopp’s side, recent results offer room for encouragement.

Without Sadio Mane, widely regarded as indispensable last term, they have scored 14 goals in their last four games. That run followed a 0-0 draw with Manchester United, in which they put in a positive performance.

While the four goals shipped at Wembley implies their defence can be got at when opponents attack with vigour, they have kept four clean sheets in their last five. Previously, they have been open defensively against low-block opposition, so recent results should not be taken lightly.

20-year-old Charlton academy graduate Joe Gomez has excelled at right-back recently and while Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip are criticized when things implode, they don’t always get credit when they play well.

If Liverpool have issues at the back, they are nothing in comparison to the problems at West Ham, who have conceded 19 goals in their last 10. The Hammers signed high-profile players in the summer, notably Pablo Zabaleta and Javier Hernandez. Their arrivals raised expectations due to their Premier League form half a decade ago but the evidence is that they are not at the same level now.

Eight of the eleven that started their last home match, a 3-0 defeat to Brighton, were 27 or older, which might have been a factor behind their lethargic performance. Zabaleta for example, has plenty of desire, but at 32 is limited in his physical capabilities, while Marko Arnautovic is an able runner, but can be found wanting when it comes to application.

The Irons rank lowly when it comes to running stats and this problem is highlighted by the way they defended at Crystal Palace last week. Slaven Bilic’s side had Joe Hart to thank for their 2-1 lead, before Michail Antonio’s naivety in giving the ball away exposed the reluctance of his teammates to get back into their defensive shape.

It was clear that there were too many players who were playing for themselves, but against the team with the quality of Liverpool, they cannot be so divided. The Reds lack the consistency to challenge for major honours but, when they do play well, they play as well as anyone in the league.

In 78 Premier League games under Klopp’s watch, they have scored three or more goals on 24 occasions. Even Man City, who have spent considerably more money and look outstanding this season, have hit threes just once more in the same timeframe. A repeat of last season’s thrashing looks plausible.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 0-3