Liverpool could move to within an inch of the Champions League or throw a season’s work of worth away as they make their first visit to the London Stadium, visiting West Ham United on Sunday.
Match: West Ham United vs Liverpool
Venue: London ‘Olympic’ Stadium
Referee: Neil Swarbrick
Date: Sunday 14th May
Time: 14:15 BST
Liverpool are left with the narrowest of leads in terms of the Champions League places after they failed to win at home for the third time in as many home games when they drew with Southampton last weekend.
Three away wins on the bounce will give the Reds hope going into this one, but the dropped points at home have allowed Arsenal to gain ground on Jürgen Klopp’s side, the gap between them likely to be down to just one point come Sunday.
Of course, third place is still to play for if Manchester City slip up, but keeping ahead of Arsenal and Manchester United must sit top of Klopp’s wishlist.
West Ham sit firmly in mid-table and are safe from relegation after a morale boosting win at home to Spurs last week, one which will have only made Liverpool even more wary of this clash.
Having come under some pressure earlier in the season, Slaven Bilic has guided his side into a very positive run of form recently. After losing their first two games in April, they’ve been on a five game unbeaten run, only conceding in one of those games – against Sunderland.
A win for the Hammers on Sunday could send them back into the top half, potentially allowing them to end the season eighth if they could pick up three points at Burnley on the final day.
As usual, there’s some bad news for Liverpool. Some good news too, ish!
Roberto Firmino is a doubt after not only being ‘managed’ through training this week but also having an actual issue not related to fatigue. Lucas too is a doubt, but he may have missed out anyway with Klopp declaring that Adam Lallana is fit to start.
Daniel Sturridge too, is ‘ready’ to go, according to the German. Where any start for Sturridge would be in place of Firmino or the out-of-form Divock Origi, remains to be seen.
Jordan Henderson remains holed up in a North Korean bunker with next to no information about his injury being provided. Other than that, it’s as you were.
Mark Noble is out of Sunday’s game as West Ham brought an end to his season prematurely by deciding it was time for him to have surgery on his abdominals.
The Hammers have a long injury list that’s been added to by Noble’s absence, with Andy Carroll, Michail Antonio, Pedro Obiang, Diafra Sakho, Angelo Ogbonna and Arthur Masuaku all out.
Predicted Liverpool XI (4-3-3): Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner; Can, Wijnaldum, Lallana; Firmino, Coutinho, Origi.
Predicted West Ham XI (5-4-1): Adrian; Byram, Collins, Fonte, Reid, Cresswell; Nordtveit, Snodgrass, Lanzini, Ayew; Calleri.
WHEN THEY LAST MET
One of Liverpool’s most disappointing performances pre-2017 this season came against West Ham at Anfield, in a game where Loris Karius failed to cover himself in glory. Having lost 4-3 to Bournemouth the week before, the Reds hoped to bounce back and went ahead after five minutes through Adam Lallana, only to then fall behind. Divock Origi equalised briefly after half-time, but that was the final goal as it ended 2-2.
PREDICTION: WEST HAM 1-2 LIVERPOOL
I’m going to be cautiously optimistic. Despite the poor performances recently, Liverpool have given me reason at times this season to believe that they’re not going to ‘bottle’ an opportunity for progression as they have in recent seasons.
Much of it depends on the tactics and selection, even substitutions, from Klopp. If he gets it right, Liverpool have the tools to break down West Ham’s defence even without Sadio Mane. Sturridge could be key, and I’d back him to score if he gets enough minutes.