Liverpool welcome Premier League adversaries West Ham United to Anfield on Saturday evening, with a place in the FA Cup's fifth round at stake.
Having endured a taxing League Cup semi-final against Stoke City on Tuesday night, eventually progressing to the final following extra time and a penalty shootout, this next clash presents another tough test for Jurgen Klopp's side.
The Reds have already lost twice to West Ham this season, with the Hammers scoring five times and keeping two clean sheets across a pair of league fixtures, and Slaven Bilic will be confident his side can make it three wins on Saturday.
West Ham defeated Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 in the third round of the FA Cup, with a single Nikica Jelavic strike securing the victory, while Liverpool took two attempts to defeat League Two outfit Exeter City.
Will League Cup success give Liverpool the momentum to seal a valuable win over the Hammers or will Bilic's side prove too strong once again?
Date: Saturday, 30 January, 2016
Time: 5.30 p.m. GMT/12.30 p.m. ET
Venue: Anfield, Liverpool
TV Info: BT Sport 2 (UK)/FOX Sports 2 (U.S only)
Form Lines (Last 5 Games)
West Ham: W-W-L-L-D
With this outing coming just three days before an important top-four clash with Leicester City in the Premier League, Klopp will be wary of overworking his Liverpool side.
Addressing reporters including Sky Sports' Mark Ashenden on Friday afternoon, he indicated he would rotate his selection against the Hammers:
It will be a young team. But most footballers are still young.
We will make changes but only because we want to win the game. The last FA Cup game against Exeter was great.
The boys will give everything.
Klopp's starting lineup will be partly enforced by injuries to a number of key players, with Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Martin Skrtel among those unavailable, while Jordan Henderson has been ruled out of contention as he continues to recover from a long-term heel injury.
Dejan Lovren is fit again after a hamstring problem, however, and the Croatian could be joined by on-loan centre-back Steven Caulker, who was cup-tied for Tuesday night's win.
Nathaniel Clyne may make his return after missing the League Cup semi-final with a knock but could remain out alongside Divock Origi, Danny Ings and Jordan Rossiter.
Bilic is facing similar injury issues, with his attack depleted during what is a crucial stage of the season.
Key forwards Andy Carroll, Diafra Sakho and Manuel Lanzini are all sidelined, as is on-loan Arsenal right-back Carl Jenkinson, who was forced off during Saturday's 2-2 draw with Manchester City, with the club's official website describing his knee injury as "significant."
Speaking ahead of the trip to Merseyside, Bilic revealed that he would make "a few changes" to the side that held City at the Boleyn Ground, as relayed by Pete Evans of London24:
We are going to make changes because of our squad situation that happened to us in October in November.
We have basically 15 or 16 players who we are treated as regulars and who are ready to play and have match practice.
We will put a strong team out there but we will do it with a few changes.
Squad players such as Darren Randolph, Angelo Ogbonna, Victor Moses and Pedro Obiang will be hopeful of a starting place, while James Tomkins is likely to return to fill in for Jenkinson at right-back.
Captain Mark Noble has recovered from a bout of flu and could lead his side out at Anfield.
While looking to keep his key names fresh for Tuesday night's trip to the King Power Stadium, Klopp is in a position to name a stronger side than that which defeated Exeter in the previous round.
Simon Mignolet could keep his place in goal, with the German manager seemingly losing faith in backup option Adam Bogdan and returning loanee Danny Ward yet to make his debut for the club, while in defence, the returns of Lovren and Caulker allow him to field an experienced core.
If Clyne is deemed unfit, Jon Flanagan could continue his stint on the right side of defence, while 21-year-old academy left-back Brad Smith could play in place of Alberto Moreno.
Kevin Stewart and Cameron Brannagan both impressed in midfield in the previous round and could be joined by League Cup penalty hero Joe Allen in a likely 4-3-3 formation, while Jordon Ibe, Joao Carlos Teixeira and Christian Benteke could come in for James Milner, Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino.
If Bilic adopts the structure of West Ham's previous FA Cup victory at home to Wolves, his side could line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with a host of familiar names present.
Randolph could come in for Adrian in goal, with Tomkins operating at right-back, joining Winston Reid, James Collins and Aaron Cresswell to form a solid back four, likely shielded by Obiang and Alex Song at the base of the midfield.
Bilic has been buoyed by the return of the effervescent Dimitri Payet and will likely risk the Frenchman in order to secure progress to the next round of the competition, while Noble's return could see the midfielder take up an advanced role behind the Hammers' lone striker.
The Croatian can choose between one of Moses and Michail Antonio on the right wing; though, he has little choice but to field ex-Everton man Jelavic as his centre-forward.
Likely Liverpool XI: Mignolet; Flanagan, Caulker, Lovren, Smith; Stewart, Allen, Brannagan; Ibe, Teixeira, Benteke
Likely West Ham XI: Randolph; Tomkins, Reid, Collins, Cresswell; Obiang, Song; Moses, Noble, Payet; Jelavic
Players to Watch
Allen has played a bit-part role under Klopp so far this season but, with a string of impressive performances to his name in recent weeks, is now targeting more game time, as he told the Liverpool Echo's James Pearce earlier this week:
Any player who isn’t in the team is always pushing to get that starting spot.
It’s no different for me. Recently I’ve had some good moments and I’ve been able to make an impact in games.
Hopefully that has done me some good and I can really stake a claim for a bit more game time.
Allen was the cool head Klopp needed to fire his side into the League Cup final on Tuesday night, and the Welshman's mature displays in the middle of the park deserve recognition.
A starring role in victory over the Hammers could see Allen stake his claim for a first-team role in the Premier League—particularly with Lucas Leiva in poor form of late.
After forging a reputation as one of English football's most exciting attacking talents with Crystal Palace and Wigan Athletic, Moses' move to Chelsea has seen the Nigerian winger's career stagnate.
A disappointing loan spell with Liverpool in 2013/14 saw Moses' stock fall rapidly, and despite signing a new long-term contract with the Blues at the start of the season, if he is in search of regular first-team football, the 25-year-old looks destined to operate at the lower end of the Premier League.
But if he is given the opportunity against his former club in Saturday evening, Moses will be desperate to make his mark and add to his only goal of the season to date.
Having recently recovered from a hamstring injury, Moses could continue his rehabilitation with a strong display against Liverpool at Anfield.
Christian Benteke vs. West Ham's Centre-Backs
In Liverpool's 2-0 defeat away to West Ham at the beginning of January, Bilic's centre-back pairing of Collins and Ogbonna dominated Benteke.
Renowned as a devastating aerial presence, Benteke won just two headed duels on the afternoon, with Collins and Ogbonna winning 11 between them; it was a hugely disappointing performance for the Belgian to add to a worrying portfolio.
If Klopp opts to field Benteke ahead of Firmino on Saturday, he will be hoping for better results this time around.
But if Bilic's defensive pairing are in the same mood as last time, Liverpool's attacking play could crumble, giving West Ham the impetus to drive forward.
West Ham: 3-1
Odds via Oddschecker and correct at time of writing.
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