West Ham United will seek their second straight marquee victory on Sunday against Liverpool. The Hammers are coming off a 3-1 victory over Chelsea and have exceeded most expectations as they sit in eighth place as the halfway point approaches.
Things haven't gone nearly as well for the Reds. They began the season in poor form and, while they have shown signs of improvement recently, the consistency it takes to make a serious move up the table hasn't been there.
Manager Brendan Rodgers must figure out a way to change that. His job is even tougher for this week's game because Liverpool will be without suspended top scorer Luis Suarez, who has been the only player to exhibit confidence in the attacking third.
What will be the match result?
Let's take a glance at the viewing information for the clash, followed by some players to watch and a match prediction.
Where: Upton Park in London, England
When: Sunday, Dec. 9 at 11 a.m. ET
Watch: Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Deportes
Live Stream: Fox Soccer 2Go
West Ham Player to Watch: Kevin Nolan
Nolan hasn't received the type of attention he deserves for his strong start. For a club that lacks star power, he's emerged as an extremely reliable attacking midfielder. In fact, he's provided the offensive boost West Ham needed to compete with the top clubs.
His form has carried over from last season, when he played a key role in helping the Hammers earn promotion. The 30-year-old Liverpool native has scored five goals and chipped in two assists in Premier League play.
Nolan has cooled off as of late, though. He's found the net just once over his past seven appearances, and West Ham won just two of those matches. That gives a pretty clear indication how important his contributions are to the club's success.
Liverpool Player to Watch: Pepe Reina
Reina is one of the few constants for Liverpool over the past handful of years. He's been the team's top goalkeeper since heading to Anfield in the summer of 2005 and has witnessed no shortage of turnover during that time.
He recently received a vote of confidence from Rodgers amidst whispers his run with the Reds might be nearing an end. ESPN reports the club's new boss insists he's not looking for a new keeper in January despite rumors to the contrary.
It was a smart move by Rodgers. Reina needs to focus on getting back into top form, not what could happen during the upcoming transfer window. He's vital to a second-half run with Liverpool's offense struggling to produce goals.
Which side has the edge?
Matchup to Watch: Hammers back line vs. Raheem Sterling
Since Suarez is suspended for the match and Steven Gerrard is dealing with an illness that leaves his status up in the air, Sterling should get a chance to shine on Sunday. It will be interesting to see how the rising star handles the added attention.
The 17-year-old winger has illustrated a lot of potential. He's still in the process of learning what it takes to succeed on a weekly basis in the Premier League, but his combination of pace and vision is certainly impressive.
Since they don't have to worry about Suarez, West Ham should be expecting a more balanced approach from the Reds. The back line just has to make sure it doesn't give Sterling too much space, or he'll make the Hammers pay.
West Ham United 1, Liverpool 0