West Ham v Liverpool
Sunday 31 January, 16:30
Live on Sky Sports Premier League/Main Event
Happy Hammers in flying form
You wouldn’t have thought West Ham would head into this game against the champions with the chance of going above them, but such is the way this season that David Moyes will even fancy his chances of just a sixth win in 35 games against the Reds given the Hammers are absolutely flying going into the contest.
West Ham may have preferred Liverpool not to have ended their marathon goal drought and looked something like their old selves against Spurs, but the hosts have had two days extra rest and sit on a six-match winning run that’s lifted them into the lofty heights of fifth.
Let’s be clear though, West Ham have been good all season, since opening up with a bad defeat to Newcastle they’ve beaten the likes of Leicester, Wolves, Everton, Villa and Leeds, drawn with Man City and Spurs and only lost to Chelsea, Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal.
Eight of their 10 league wins this season have been by a single goal, which shows they can dig out results, and importantly in this most chaotic of seasons West Ham are actually an oasis of calm on the playing front with Moyes having a relatively settled, well-rested side to pick.
The addition of Jesse Lingard on loan will be another bonus for a team that will now surely be eyeing a spot in Europe.
Liverpool show signs of life
Jurgen Klopp was almost emotional as Liverpool ended their scoring drought at Spurs, and the Reds looked a lot more like champions as they outclassed Jose Mourinho’s side – even though they did benefit from some awful defending for the goals.
Their next test in London should be much tougher though, with West Ham sure to provide a tougher nut to crack in defence and with Joel Matip adding to Klopp’s injury crisis – it’s gone from a headache to a migraine at Anfield this season.
With Fabinho doubtful, Nat Phillips should start alongside Jordan Henderson in yet another central defensive pairing this season. Phillips played in the reverse fixture at Anfield but this will be much tougher against the excellent Michail Antonio instead of the disappointing Sebastien Haller.
The Reds are unbeaten in nine (W7 D2) against the Hammers and also unbeaten at the London Stadium (W3 D1) so far but this shapes up to be their toughest visit yet.
Hammers to use their heads
Somehow Liverpool were still the league’s top scorers after the last round of fixtures despite going four games without a goal, and there was a visible increase in intensity and effectiveness from Firmino, Salah and Mane against Spurs. They’ve been guilty of missing chances during their barren run but they now look back on song.
West Ham have three clean sheets at home in the league and with Liverpool certain to dominate the ball the hosts will be hard-pressed to keep them out. With Klopp’s defensive problems he’ll want to keep the ball away from West Ham as much as possible.
Both teams to score 1.68/13 is so short though because with that Liverpool defence you just can’t trust them to keep a clean sheet themselves. Moyes isn’t too bothered about possession, and his side have delivered results even without the ball.
They had just 28% of the ball at Anfield but only lost out 2-1, and only had 30% in a 1-1 draw with Man City, while even in a 3-2 win at Palace they recorded 46%. It’s what you do with the ball that counts.
West Ham’s two big threats are clear – Michael Antonio is fast, strong, powerful and has shown he can score against Liverpool, with four goals in six he’s scored more Premier League goals against them than any other West Ham player.
Then there’s the set pieces – West Ham have scored 10 goals from set pieces, nobody has more this season, and in Tomas Soucek they have real threat with four of his seven goals this term coming from dead ball situations.
Both Antonio 3.185/40 and Soucek 4.57/2 are worth looking at in the anytime goalscorer market. While with Soucek the 2.01/1 on him just to get one shot on target appeals, as does his 10.09/1 to score header, which is an odds boosted special on the sportsbook.
Liverpool are 1.758/11 favourites to win it on Sunday, but West Ham at 4.47/2 will lure some in and the draw at 4.03/1 will also prove popular for those who feel that the Hammers can prey on Klopp’s defensive weakness.
Antonio on the break will be a handful, and set pieces could prove tricky, but the problem is just how much of the ball West Ham will have – most likely not much. They actually had more corners at Anfield, but it was still only 2-1 on that count, and otherwise the Reds have dominated that stat (16-4) this season.
Chances could be few and far between but Antonio and Soucek are still worth speculative plays, and with only Man Utd having more games with over 2.5 goals than the Hammers (12) and Liverpool just one behind, this game to go over that mark looks nailed-on. While at 1.654/6 it’s not huge it’s one for your notebook for a same game multi.
In the scoring charts, your eye should firmly be on Mohamed Salah, who hasn’t scored in six yet is still the Premier League top scorer with 13.
His lack of goals is not for the want of trying, Salah has 3.5 shots for every 90 minutes in the league this season, with 1.6 on target per 90. The Egyptian has a fantastic record against the Hammers having scored in six of the seven games he’s played against them.
After having a goal ruled out against Spurs he’ll be desperate to get on the scoresheet and I wouldn’t back against you collecting on the 5.04/1 on him to be the first goalscorer at the London Stadium. He may be favourite in the anytime goalscorer market at 2.01/1 but that’s still worth taking.
The only stadium at which Liverpool have played more top-flight league matches without losing than London Stadium (4) is Wimbledon’s Plough Lane, playing five games there between 1986/87 and 1990/91 without defeat (W4 D1).
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