Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 2/5
Liverpool are set to welcome West Ham United at Anfield on Saturday, for what should be a contest far more exciting than one would have thought by just looking at the names of the two teams involved. The game will be played within the seventh round of this season’s Premier League campaign.
Much has been said recently about the champions and the crisis currently hitting their back line hard, but when all things are considered, Jurgen Klopp’s men have still done very well. The only game they’ll want to forget as quickly as possible in terms of result was the one away to Aston Villa prior to the last international break, when they lost by 7-2. Apart from that, they’ve beaten Leeds United at home, Chelsea away, Arsenal at home and Sheffield United at home. They will have also been happy about the performance they put in against table topping Everton, who could consider themselves lucky to have gotten away with a point at Goodison Park.
Liverpool are now in second place with 13 points, behind their Blue neighbours on mere goal-difference after the Toffees suffered a surprise defeat away to Southampton last week. Aston Villa are right behind with 12 (with a game in hand, mind), the same tally as Leicester City in fourth.
The Reds are doing well in the Champions League, having beaten Ajax away and Midtyilland at home to go top of their group ahead of a trip to Italy to face Atalanta.
Virgil van Dijk, who suffered an ACL rupture in the Everton clash, has successfully undergone surgery, the club have confirmed. He’ll now start his rehabilitation process and there is no time-frame set for his comeback, but he is still not expected to play again this season.
To make matters far worse for Klopp and his team, Joel Matip has been struggling with a muscle issue and missed the last several outings, and he remains a huge doubt for the Hammers’ visit. Fabinho, who was transferred from midfield to the back line due to the absence of Van Dijk and Matip, has been ruled out after picking up a hamstring problem in the Champions League clash with Midtyilland on Tuesday. It means that if Matip isn’t fit, Klopp will have to decide whether to move another midfielder back (captain Jordan Henderson has played centre-back in the past, as has Geoginio Wijnaldum), or to give 19-year-old Rhys Williams his Premier League debut alongside Joe Gomez.
Klopp recently spoke about the condition of Naby Keita and Thiago Alcantara, and said that the two midfielders (along with Matip) are being assessed on a daily basis, refusing to rule them out completely.
The established trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane will form the attacking line again, after Klopp put all three of them on the bench against Midtyilland.
West Ham United
The Hammers struggled to secure Premier League survival in 2019/20, but they’ve been looking much better since this campaign started, despite kicking it off with consecutive defeats. First they lost to Newcastle United, and then to Arsenal, but then their results started picking up. They smashed Wolverhampton Wanderers at home by 4-0 in round three, and then stunned Leicester as well at the King Power Stadium (0-3). In the fifth round they came back from three goals down to draw 3-3 away to Tottenham Hotspur, and last week they squeezed a point at home against Manchester City.
The eight points they’ve picked up so far have David Moyes’ team in 12th place at the moment, but they’ll be pleased about getting four of the ‘top six’ teams out of their way when they leave Anfield.
The biggest news when it comes to West Ham and the Liverpool trip is that Moyes has ruled out Michail Antonio from this game. The in-form forward, who scored three Premier League goals so far this season, suffered an injury in the match against Manchester City and was replaced after 52 minutes. Moyes says it’s not too bad, but the 30-year-old certainly won’t be going to Merseyside on Saturday.
Antonio’s absence is likely to provide Sebastian Haller with a more important role upfront, and Said Benrahma, on loan from Brentford for the season, could make his club debut.
With or without Van Dijk, Liverpool are still strong favourites to win this game. Not by a large margin, probably, but they should make sure all three points stay at Anfield, where they’ve been unbeaten in the Premier League since April 2017.
Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 2/5
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