Liverpool should feel good about where they stand as the halfway point of the Premier League campaign rapidly approaches. Heading into their weekend clash with West Ham United, the Reds sit in fourth place and are within striking distance of the top spot.
One of the main reasons for Liverpool's success has been strong play at home. The Reds have won six of their seven matches at Anfield with a combined score of 18-4. Home results like that are always the first step toward a Champions League berth.
The outlook for West Ham isn't as promising. The Hammers are in 17th place and just three points clear of the relegation zone. If they want to avoid fighting the relegation battle for the entire second half of the season, these are the type of matches where even a draw would be helpful.
Let's check out all the key information for Saturday's EPL clash, followed by a breakdown of the top storyline and a match prediction.
Where: Anfield in Liverpool, England
When: Saturday, Dec. 7 at 10 a.m. ET (3 p.m. GMT)
Watch: Sportsnet East (Live stream only in U.S.)
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
Match Forecast (via Bloomberg Sports)
Liverpool: 55.3 percent
West Ham: 20.9 percent
Draw: 23.8 percent
Top Storyline: Can the Hammers slow down Luis Suarez?
The display put on by Suarez during Liverpool's midweek victory over Norwich could very well end up being the best individual performance of the Premier League campaign. He was nothing short of outstanding, especially in the first half.
He netted a hat trick within the first 35 minutes, twisting and turning defenders every which way before showing off the terrific final touch that's made him a superstar. As if that weren't enough, he came out in the second half and scored his fourth goal of the night.
The fact is, when he's playing with as much confidence as he did on Wednesday there are few strikers in the world more dangerous than the Uruguayan. He's a special talent, and the Norwich back line certainly found that out the hard way.
If West Ham are going to earn a result on the road, slowing Suarez down is the first order of business. The most important thing is putting immediate pressure on him when he receives the ball, forcing him to pass or try a low-percentage run.
Once he's left in space for enough time to survey the defense, he's going to make something happen. His combination of vision, natural talent and finishing ability allows him to make plays in the blink of an eye that other players wouldn't even see.
So the onus is on James Tomkins and James Collins to limit Suarez's space and keep him to the outside as much as possible. If they can do that, at least West Ham will have a chance.
West Ham have been effective at implementing a defensive game plan on the road. The Hammers have allowed just five goals in seven Premier League road matches. That style of play is their best chance of getting at least a point at Anfield.
That said, Liverpool should be riding a wave of momentum after Wednesday's victory. Expect another strong performance from the Reds as they try to keep pace with the other clubs near the top of the table, resulting in a solid win.
Liverpool 3, West Ham 1
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