The Big Match Tactical View: West Ham v Liverpool
This week's Monday night game features Liverpool travelling down to London, in a fixture they've excelled in recently. Michael Cox and Alan Thompson preview the action.
"Against Leicester, Liverpool were forced to deploy Jordan Henderson at right-back, but here will be boosted by the return of James Milner."
West Ham v Liverpool
Monday 20:00, Sky Sports 1
Match Odds: West Ham [9.0], Liverpool [1.42], The Draw [5.5].
West Ham have an absolutely abysmal recent record against Liverpool - in the sides' last four meetings, Liverpool have scored four goals every time. It wouldn't be a huge surprise if they scored four again here...
After all, West Ham suddenly seem in a mini-crisis having conceded seven goals in their last two matches, including an embarrassing FA Cup defeat to AFC Wimbledon. They also, in keeping with many Premier League sides, seem to have serious injury problems.
Winston Reid, Manuel Lanzini, Carlos Sanchez, Andriy Yarmolenko and Jack Wilshere are all long-term absences, while Fabian Balbuena, Samir Nasri and Lucas Perez are also unavailable. A greater problem, though, is that fact that both Lukasz Fabianski and Marko Arnautovic are considered doubtful. Both players have starred this season at opposite ends of the field and West Ham would be a significantly poorer team without them.
Adrian wouldn't be a disastrous replacement in goal, but at the other end West Ham's play would change significantly if Manuel Pellegrini is forced to deploy Andy Carroll upfront against his former side.
The Hammers played far too direct against Wimbledon with the target man upfront, and if they played in a similar manner here they'll bypass their talented creative players.
Anderson to keep pressure up
Felipe Anderson continues to shine on the left flank but will miss Nasri who has impressed in the number 10 position so far. Robert Snodgrass, who has sometimes done a job in a central midfield position, prefers playing from the right, from where he can cut in and shoot. If fielded there, he'll be asked to track back against his compatriot Andy Robertson, who is enjoying a superb season.
Mark Noble and Declan Rice has worked well as a midfield partnership, with Noble sitting deep and Rice covering more ground. At the back, Pablo Zabaleta might find himself troubled by Sadio Mane's pace, Aaron Cresswell will have to tuck inside and stay close to his centre-backs, while Angelo Ogbonna and Issa Diop might be troubled by Mo Salah's speed.
Milner likely to start at right-back
Liverpool's draw against Leicester was something of a disappointment, and a missed opportunity to move seven points clear of Manchester City. Nevertheless, stretching the gap to five points still represents a positive week, and they should win this game too.
Against Leicester, the Reds were forced to deploy Jordan Henderson at right-back, but here will be boosted by the return of James Milner.
However, he's still third-choice right-back behind Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez, who will both miss out here, and he was suspended in the first place because he was unable to cope with Wilfried Zaha's trickery, earning a red card against Crystal Palace. He might struggle against Anderson, even if the Brazilian is a different type of player.
Mane should play wide-left
Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk will attempt to play high up the pitch and keep Carroll away from goal. Henderson might return to his usual midfield role in Klopp's 4-2-3-1, assuming he doesn't revert to 4-3-3.
That might mean Naby Keita continuing in his slightly awkward left-sided midfield role, but Klopp surely needs to deploy a proper speedster, Mane, against Zabaleta. That will allow Xherdan Shaqiri to play from the right, and Roberto Firmino to play behind Salah. In this game last season, Mane and Salah caused West Ham serious problems on the break, and Klopp may ask his side to sit deep before roaring forward at transitions.
I think Liverpool will win this comfortably, although I'm not sure there's too much incentive to run up a big scoreline. I think they'll win the game before half-time, and therefore will back Liverpool/Liverpool in Half-Time / Full-Time at [2.6].
The Betfair Trader - Alan Thompson
The Reds could have been seven points clear at the top of the table going into this one if they hadn’t surrendered an early lead at home against Leicester City on Wednesday evening and if City are just two points behind the Reds before kick off (assuming they beat Arsenal the night before) then all the pressure will be back on the away side to get the win.
They do have a good recent record against the Hammers, winning on their last two visits and scoring eight goals in the process (0-4 & 1-4). Also, the reverse fixture at the start of the season also seen Liverpool win by a four goal margin (4-0).
The main worry for Liverpool is that water tight defence has shown some signs of fragility lately due to injuries and suspensions and as result they have only kept the one clean sheet in their last six in all competitions. But their opponents haven’t been in the best of form lately, losing their last three games, including a humiliating defeat in the FA Cup. However, all those defeats were away from home and when they last run out at the London Stadium they recorded a 1-0 victory over Arsenal.
Even though I think Liverpool will have enough to claim the victory here they look a little short in the Match Odds market at [1.43] and would rather look elsewhere for a bet. The Asian Handicap has them at -1.5 and as they have comprehensively beaten West Ham by more than that recently, I would rather take the chance on them winning by a couple and back Liverpool -1.5 at [2.0].
Michael: Back Liverpool/Liverpool in Half-Time / Full-Time market @ [2.6]
Alan: Back Liverpool -1.5 on the Asian Handicap @ [2.0]