Liverpool vs. West Ham: Reds Must Pick Up 3 Points to Continue Positive Momentum

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 7, 2013

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 17:  Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Swansea City at Anfield on February 17, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Anything less than a win for Liverpool against West Ham would be critical points lost.

The two face off on Sunday in what is probably the least interesting fixture of the day. West Ham is comfortably in the middle of the Premier League table, and Liverpool looks to be too far off to claim a European place for next season.

Most of the importance of this match comes lies in the Reds' need to maintain their positive run. The club has won four of its last five matches.

Champions League qualification was the dream this season, but showing signs of progress was the most important goal. As long as fans and ownership saw Brendan Rodgers taking Liverpool forward, everybody would be happy. Having unrealistic expectations would only do more harm than good.

Sunday gives Rodgers the chance to secure another big victory.

Liverpool won the first fixture these two played earlier in the season, with Joe Cole (Yes, THAT Joe Cole) and Jonjo Shelvey delivering the critical goals in a 3-2 win in Upton Park.

Getting a win in Anfield is much easier considering Andy Carroll can't play, per the terms of the loan deal the Reds have with the Hammers. That means it's either going to be Carlton Cole or Marouane Chamakh leading the line for West Ham.

Maybe a couple of seasons ago, you would have predicted a brace from Cole and then a goal for Chamakh after being substituted in the 75th minute, for that was how poor Liverpool looked. Now, though, the club is in a much more assured position.

There's a certain swagger about this club, and it goes beyond Luis Suarez. Having a player like him certainly helps, but there's now so many more players to help provide exciting football.

You knew Rodgers' system would take a little time to implement, but there was that sliver of doubt earlier in the season as to whether the players would ever get it. Now with Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge, there's proper support for Suarez. The midfield shows promise with guys like Jordan Henderson and Shelvey as well. Rodgers has even managed to inspire Stewart Downing enough to get consistent performances out of him.

When you hear somebody like Steven Gerrard or Pepe Reina talk about Champions League qualification next season, you actually start to believe it.

Losing or drawing to West Ham won't mean anything for next season in terms of points. This match is more about making a statement to the rest of the league.

You want to be considered a top-four challenger for next season? You better beat West Ham at home.