Liverpool travel to the London Stadium, knowing that top four is very much within their grasp, and a win against West Ham could be enough to see them over the line. But West Ham will be a tough team to beat, as they have three clean sheets in their last three home games, and are five league games unbeaten. So here are the key battles for Sunday’s game.
Aaron Cresswell vs Nathaniel Clyne
Cresswell has been one of the shining stars of West Ham’s team, and as in any team that play with three at the back, wing-backs are extremely important. West Ham are a very powerful aerial team, which makes preventing crosses important, and Clyne will have his work cut out to keep Cresswell at bay. But equally, as Liverpool will expect to dominate play, Clyne will also find himself attempting to get some attacking joy against Cresswell too, which given Liverpool’s lack of width against Saints, could prove extremely pivotal, especially as Origi and Firmino are good in the air.
Manuel Lanzini vs Emre Can
It’s likely that Emre Can will line up in a slightly more defensive role against West Ham, but even if he doesn’t, he still needs to take responsibility for Lanzini, whose license to roam in the attacking midfield role caused Spurs endless problems last time out. With eight goals this season, only Michail Antonio has more goals for the Hammers, and with 1.6 key passes per game, there’s nobody at the club more creative than him at the moment. Can has to use his physical strength to harry and hustle Lanzini and not let him settle, as he’s no doubt the most dangerous player West Ham are likely to throw against the Reds.
West Ham’s Centre-Backs vs Divock Origi
West Ham’s back three system means that out of form Divock Origi, assuming he’s given the nod, will have three big physical central defenders to cope with. But with Origi’s tendancy to peel off into the channels and use the flanks, there won’t be a single defender that occupies him all game. His battle with Jose Fonte however, on Liverpool’s left hand side looks the most interesting. Fonte has done wonders for this West Ham back-line in recent weeks after a shaky start, and Origi is going to have to seriously up his contribution from recent weeks to get any joy against them. It’s also important that Origi gets support, or he could easily be isolated as he has in recent weeks, but it’s up to Origi to drag one of the back three out of position to create space for others.