Friday, November 19, 2010

Match Preview: Cautious optimism as unpredictable Liverpool take on struggling Hammers

In their current state a win over West Ham United should be somewhat of a formality. The Hammers have netted just eleven goals home and away this season, conceding twenty-two and picking up just nine points from thirteen games.

Yet the cautious optimism that greeted John W Henry upon his arrival on Merseyside seems to once again be prevalent among Liverpool’s supporters – with what has been a roller coaster league campaign thus far proving to be enough to make even the most passionate fan doubt what should be a forgone conclusion.

So far this season Liverpool have been predictably unpredictable, with the Reds most recent run of games being a prime example of just how varied performances both home and away can be.

Earlier in the month Roy Hodgson was breathing a sigh of relief following a crucial win over current league champions Chelsea. A corner had been turned, claimed his supporters – yet following the Reds best showing so far this season form once again slipped, with Liverpool putting in disappointing performances against Wigan and Stoke – which ended in a draw and a defeat respectfully.

It’s this erratic form which leaves supporters worrying about what should be the most predictable of fixtures. West Ham have yet to win on their travels, having drawn three and lost three away from Upton Park.

These worries have been further justified due to a number of key players being ruled out of the fixture, leaving the squad looking its weakest for many years.

Steven Gerrard faces up to four weeks on the sidelines with a hamstring injury, Joe Cole is suffering from the same problem and thus won’t start, whilst Lucas will miss the match through suspension.

To further add to Roy Hodgson’s midfield selection troubles youngster Jay Spearing – who may have been handed his first league start at Anfield – was ruled out of the fixture on Friday after injuring his ankle in the latter stages of training.

The back-four on the other hand has remained, for the most part, injury free in the build-up to the fixture, with centre-half Daniel Agger being the only major sidelined player as full-backs Glen Johnson and Fabio Aurelio are set to return to the squad having recovered from groin and Achilles injuries.

It’s not just Liverpool that are going in to the fixture with a weakened squad however, with West Ham missing Ben Haim, Collison, Hines, Kurucz, Hitzlsperger and most notably Scott Parker.

Injury woes or not this is a game Liverpool would expect to win. But the same was said for Blackpool and Sunderland at home, not to mention the embarrassment in the League Cup against Northampton.

A win against Chelsea is all well and good, but if the three points picked up against the champions are not backed up by further wins over significantly weaker teams the Liverpool will continue to remain in a state of limbo.

A win for Liverpool, which would seem likely, would see them heading up towards the European places in the Barclays Premier League, whilst a loss could send the Reds hurtling back down towards the relegation places – a sign of just how unpredictable a season Liverpool are having.

(Photo provided by Nicholas MacGowan) 

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