Premier League Preview: How Liverpool Will Line Up Against West Ham United
After a comprehensive 4-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield last Sunday, Liverpool’s bid for the Premier League title is well and truly on, and their next challenge is a trip to Upton Park to take on West Ham United.
Having notched eight wins on the bounce, Brendan Rodgers’ side now have a league-leading 71 points on the board, while the Hammers have all but secured their Premier League safety, placing 11 points above the relegation zone after two important wins in a row.
The reverse fixture at Anfield took place in December, when a Guy Demel own goal, a first Liverpool goal from Mamadou Sakho and a late Luis Suarez brace gave the home side a 4-1 win. Since then, ex-Liverpool record signing Andy Carroll has made his way back into Sam Allardyce’s first team after injury and impressed up front.
Here’s our Liverpool lineup for Sunday’s clash at Upton Park. We are keeping with the 4-3-3 formation reintroduced to the side, both to offer more width against the wing-heavy Hammers and to add more central numbers against a powerful West Ham midfield.
Let us know your picks in the comments below.
Goalkeeper: Simon Mignolet
For a goalkeeper in a league-leading side, Simon Mignolet has a comparatively low number of clean sheets: 10 for the season, compared with Petr Cech’s 14 and Wojciech Szczesny’s 13.
The Liverpool defence has improved in recent weeks, however, as they have notched three clean sheets in their past five matches. Mignolet will be looking to add to that record at a hostile Upton Park on Sunday.
Right-Back: Glen Johnson
Since his return from injury, Glen Johnson has made the right-back slot his own again and while his displays have still yet to reach a league-best level of consistency—Manchester City’s Pablo Zabaleta should still hold the crown in that aspect—he has become a key outlet in the Reds' attack.
An exciting collaboration with Raheem Sterling on the right flank against Tottenham Hotspur last Sunday bodes well for the rest of the season. Given West Ham’s heavy use of the wings to supply Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan, we’ve gone with the same partnership again here.
Left-Back: Jon Flanagan
After a couple of less convincing performances, Jon Flanagan rebounded with an excellent display against Spurs last Sunday, launching into aggressive but well-timed tackles to stamp his authority on a usually lightning-quick Aaron Lennon.
He will likely come up against ex-Liverpool winger Stewart Downing, and he will look to nullify his threat all the same.
Centre-Back: Martin Skrtel
Martin Skrtel seems to be coming into his best form and confidence in the most important period of the season, and he clearly has Brendan Rodgers’ trust in his first-choice central defensive pairing.
His strength will be required on Sunday as West Ham’s aerial bombardment will cause the Liverpool defence problems all afternoon.
Centre-Back: Mamadou Sakho
Given Daniel Agger’s recent upturn in form, it’s perhaps slightly on the harsh side that we’ve gone for Mamadou Sakho for Sunday’s match.
But the considerable aerial threat and ability of Andy Carroll and the physical style of play employed by West Ham should mean that a defender with the characteristics to deal with this type of attack is chosen, and that’s where Sakho comes in.
Holding Midfielder: Steven Gerrard
Despite being just one yellow card away from sustaining a two-match ban, with a mammoth clash with Manchester City on the horizon, Steven Gerrard must start on Sunday, to provide the leadership, experience and possible match-winning moment that Liverpool might need in what could turn out to be a scrappy affair.
He’ll need lots of help from his midfield colleagues to handle the direct physical play from the likes of Kevin Nolan and Mohamed Diame though, if he is to avoid that all-important yellow card.
Central Midfielder: Joe Allen
And that’s why we’ve gone for Joe Allen in our starting lineup alongside Gerrard, relegating Philippe Coutinho back to the bench for this week.
Allen’s composure on the ball, positional intelligence and underrated tackling ability make him an important partner for Gerrard in the midfield areas.
Attacking Midfielder: Jordan Henderson
Jordan Henderson starts in our lineup as the most advanced midfield option, to put pressure on the West Ham midfield—particularly Diame, who can be found wanting positionally at times—and force them into errors on the ball.
His defensive work will also be needed to help Steven Gerrard get through a potentially tough match with his card collection unscathed.
Right Forward: Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling was previously the first-team player to make way when Philippe Coutinho returned at the tip of the midfield diamond, but his energetic display against Spurs on the right flank showed once again his importance to Brendan Rodgers’ side these days.
His combination play with Glen Johnson on the Liverpool right makes it one of the most dangerous flanks in all of the Premier League, as they dovetail both offensively and defensively to good effect. George McCartney will be expecting a tough 90 minutes.
Left Forward: Luis Suarez
Not that McCartney’s opposite number, Guy Demel, will be having any easier match on Sunday, given Luis Suarez’s current form.
Suarez needs just two more goals to equal Alan Shearer and Cristiano Ronaldo’s joint record of 31 in a 38-game Premier League season. If Liverpool do take control of Sunday’s match, there’d be nothing better in the eyes of Reds fans than him reaching that mark with five matches to go.
Striker: Daniel Sturridge
Leading the line but rotating in a dynamic and interchangeable strikeforce will be Daniel Sturridge, who had a rare off-day against Spurs and didn’t manage to get on the scoresheet.
Nevertheless, with 20 league goals this season, Sturridge has already elevated himself into esteemed company, as Liverpool, for the first time since their title-winning season 50 years ago, have a strike partnership to hit 20 each in a single season.