Liverpool desperate to beat West Ham United to keep Champions League hopes alive
Liverpool travel to West Ham United on Sunday afternoon, knowing a loss can deal a serious blow to their UEFA Champions League aspirations.
Coming off a frustrating goalless stalemate with Southampton, the Reds will be desperate to bounce back to winning ways having played one game more than every top-four rivals.
However, given their inconsistency, Arsenal and the Manchester clubs will hope for a result that makes Liverpool’s participation in Champions League implausible. Liverpool’s suffering a loss in London can see Manchester City leapfrog them while Arsenal may also reduce the gap to a solitary point.
United, on the other hand, found themselves embroiled in the relegation dogfight earlier this season; however, Slaven Bilic’s adoption of the now over-used three-man backline has seen the club ensure their first season at London Stadium hardly looks a failure.
The Irons’ recent Manuel Lanzini-inspired 1-0 win against then-title contenders Tottenham Hotspur bears testimony to their revival, and the club and its fans alike will look to keep up their giant-killing by thrashing Jurgen Klopp’s hopes of wrestling with the European heavyweights next season.
Slaven Bilic’s masterminding a win can see the club move to the top half of the table; they currently sit 12th, level on points with Bournemouth and Southampton, who sit above them and behind ninth-placed Leicester City.
Injuries have derailed United’s chances of building on their last season’s laurels, and their injury crisis has not improved as Englishmen Mark Noble and former Liverpool striker Andy Carroll are on the injury table. Additionally, Cheikhou Kouyate, Gokhan Tore, Angelo Ogbonna, Pedro Obiang, Michail Antonio, Diafra Sakho, and Arthur Masuaku will all miss the game.
As for Liverpool, Danny Ings, Adam Bogdan, Jordan Henderson and Sadio Mane will all miss the London trip while Lucas Leiva and Roberto Firmino require late fitness tests.
· United have won their last two home Premier League meetings with Liverpool, their best run since winning three in a row between 1997 and 1999.
· Liverpool have kept one clean sheet in their last 10 Premier League visits to United, a 3-0 victory in May 2009.
· None of the last 11 Premier League meetings between these sides at United have ended as a draw, with the Hammers winning four and Liverpool seven since a 1-1 draw in December 2001.
Player to watch
Manuel Lanzini has been a regular fixture in Bilic’s United side. Despite scoring just eight goals in 29 starts, he has managed to find the net in five of his last eight Premier League home games. Having scored against Chelsea, Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur, he will look to score against yet another English juggernaut in Liverpool on Sunday.
Although United completed a double over Liverpool last season, they only salvaged a point at Anfield earlier this season. Either team scored two goals, with United even heading into the second half with a lead. Both teams will field a starting line-up that is largely different from the teams that started in Merseyside thanks to a few players’ injuries and poor form.