This Wednesday evening sees a European semi-finalist, take on a team struggling to maintain form. With the listed participants of this matchup, usually, it would be easy to decipher one from the other. This season, however, sees a European giant already eliminated from their customary cup competition, whilst still fighting to qualify for next season’s venture. The other is still fighting their own continental battle, whilst doing just about enough to secure Premier League survival.
West Ham have fallen foul of an increased fixture list this year, with the UEFA Europa Conference League taking precedence over their Premier League campaign. With a semi-final against AZ Alkmaar to come (on May 10th), this could represent an ideal opportunity for Liverpool to record their third straight win. The Hammers currently languish in 13th position in the English top tier, with 34 points taken from their 31 games played. With safety not as yet assured, they still need at least six points to confirm their league status. David Moyes has had a very uncharacteristic season, with his attempts at building a new and improved team backfiring. His performances in Europe have perhaps allowed him to keep his job, yet their form in the league has been very different. That being said, their last outing saw them beat Bournemouth 0-4, in a very one-sided encounter on the south coast. Prior to that, a 4-1 home win against Genk guaranteed them passage into their upcoming semi-final, after an impressive (if disappointing) 2-2 draw at home at Arsenal.
In terms of availability, the East London outfit will be without just Gianluca Scamacca, who will be out for another month.
The starting line-up will see Łukasz Fabiański maintain for a position in goal, behind a back four of Aaron Cresswell, Vladimír Coufal, Nayef Aguerd, and Kurt Zouma. The midfield three will consist of Declan Rice, Tomáš Souček, and either Lucas Paquetá or Pablo Fornals. Up front, Michail Antonio should just about edge out Danny Ings, with Jarrod Bowen and Saïd Benrahma keeping their places on the flanks.
Liverpool come into this game on the back of a 3-2 home win against Nottingham Forest, after a 1-6 dismantling of Leeds at Elland Road. That emphatic victory came after a 2-2 draw at home to Arsenal. With some system tweaking engulfing the Red’s rear and middle ground, there is certainly room for the Reds to improve their on and off-ball efforts. With just 50 points taken from their 31 games played, they have only an outside chance of Champions League qualification.
In terms of the Liverpool injuries, Calvin Ramsay and Stefan Bajčetić are definitely out, and Naby Keïta is probably a player that has played his last game for the Reds. Roberto Firmino is out for an undisclosed period of time.
Alisson Becker will start in nets, with Virgil and Ibrahima Konaté retaining their places in central defense. Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander Arnold should start at fullback, with the right back perhaps given a little less freedom to venture into midfield. Fabinho and Thiago should start this game, with Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott or Jordan Henderson, starting alongside them. With the Spaniard almost certainly being recalled for this game, it should see a more solidified system utilised. The attack is certain to see some rotation, with a busy week leading into Sunday’s game at home to Tottenham. Darwin and Luis Diaz will be hoping to come into this game, with Diogo Jota and Cody Gakpo perhaps coming out for this match.
This is a game that the Reds will be desperate to win, with momentum gaining toward a top-four chase. West Ham have some momentum themselves, therefore will look to exploit any opportunity for a counterattack. Rotation and fitness will play a part, though I can see decisive substitutions playing a vital part in the end result.
Player to watch – Thiago Alcantara
West Ham 2 – 2 Liverpool