Premier Preview: West Ham United v Liverpool
After successfully negotiating their way into the next round of the Europa League in midweek, Liverpool return to Premier League action this weekend with a trip to West Ham United.
Despite the confidence boost from defeating Udinese 1-0 in Italy on Thursday night, Brendan Rodgers' preparations for the upcoming game were compromised by a mechanical issue with the club's plane which delayed their return to the UK.
The Reds will be hoping the extra night away will have no bearing on their attempts to record a first away league win in five attempts. Going into the weekend they sit 11th in the standings but surprisingly the meagre tally of 19 points from 15 games is only 7 behind the teams in 3rd, 4th and 5th.
The Hammers have had a great start upon their return to the Premier League and can be found in the lofty heights of 8th; 3 points and 3 places ahead of Sunday's visitors.
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers speaking to Liverpoolfc.com: "Our last couple of victories have been narrow ones, but in those games we could have been a little more clinical and won by more. The most important thing is that we are winning games and I believe that as the season goes on, we'll become more clinical....
"We know West Ham will be a tough game. They got a fantastic result in their last game against Chelsea and Sam [Allardyce] has done very, very well in getting them promoted and he's made them very difficult to beat. We'll arrive at West Ham with great confidence. The nature of our game is getting better all the time."
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce quoted during his pre-match press conference: "We hit such levels of performance in the second half [of last week's 3-1 win over Chelsea] that it's now my job to sustain that because sustainability is the most difficult thing to do in the Barclays Premier League.
"After performances like that you can get a dip so it's my job to make sure we don't have a dip after that type of performance because we'll need to be up there again to beat a team like Liverpool. It's about the lads trying to maintain their outstanding level from last weekend."
West Ham United Team News:
On-loan Liverpool striker Andy Carroll will not feature for the hosts as he is both ineligible and injured. The £35m man is out until the New Year with a knee problem and despite an impressive start to his spell in the capital Carroll has just 1 goal to his name so far. The big Geordie's absence is likely to mean Carlton Cole will continue up top with support from captain Kevin Nolan. Also out injured and not available are former Reds midfielder Alou Diarra (thigh), Ricardo Vaz Te (shoulder) and Jack Collison (knee). There is better news regarding another one-time Liverpool player with Yossi Benayoun likely to be available again after a knee injury. Defender George McCartney is touch-and-go after a period on the sidelines with an ankle complaint.
Jaaskelainen, Demel, Reid, Tomkins, O'Brien, Diame, Noble, O'Neil, Jarvis, Nolan, Cole.
Player to watch: Kevin Nolan
Liverpool-born Nolan has been a dangerous player at the top level for over a decade now. The fact he has captained all three of his professional clubs - West Ham, Newcastle United and Bolton Wanderers - gives a good indication of his importance and influence on each. Although industrious and intelligent, Nolan's biggest asset is his goal threat which has seen him notch at least 12 league goals in each of the past three seasons. With 5 to his name already this campaign it is a surprise to many that the 30-year-old is still yet to receive an international cap.
Liverpool Team News:
Key striker Luis Suarez is suspended following his fifth yellow card of the season against Southampton last weekend. The Uruguayan's absence will be keenly felt without another recognised striker available. Fellow forward Fabio Borini is making progress from the fractured foot he sustained back in October. The 21-year-old is due to see his surgeon on Monday and all being well will be able to step up his recovery from the injury with an eye on returning at some point during January. The lack of options will probably see Jonjo Shelvey played up front as he did during the Europa League match with Young Boys recently. There is also the outside chance of one of the club's younger players such as Samed Yesil or Adam Morgan being promoted from the Academy setup although the fact both featured in Friday's 4-1 win over Crystal Palace U21s would make that idea seem unlikely. Elsewhere Daniel Agger, Lucas Leiva and Steven Gerrard are all likely to return after being spared the trip to Italy during the week. Defender Martin Kelly is still around three months away from returning from a serious cruciate ligament injury which required surgery.
Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique, Lucas, Allen, Gerrard, Suso, Sterling, Shelvey.
Player to watch: Jonjo Shelvey
With Suarez absent it is difficult to see quite where the goals will come from for Liverpool in this match but the man most likely to provide them is probably Shelvey. The 20-year-old could be played in a more advanced position to his normal central midfield role to compensate for the lack of natural striking options at the club. Shelvey is currently Liverpool's second highest scorer this term with 4 (all in Europe) and the Reds may well need the ex-Charlton Athletic youngster to add to that tally if they are to take all three points this weekend.
Match Facts & Stats
• Liverpool and West Ham have met 122 times in their respective histories and the Reds hold the upper hand with 64 wins to the Hammers' 24 and 34 draws. Liverpool have scored a total of 204 goals compared to a tally of 116 for Southampton.
• The Reds also hold the upper hand in recent meetings between the two sides with West Ham winning just 2 of the last 18 Premier League encounters (Liverpool have won 13 and there have been 3 draws) .
• Premier League joint top scorer Luis Suarez (10 goals) has missed eight previous league games since joining Liverpool in January 2011. Of those games Liverpool have won 4.
• West Ham are the only team to have used three substitutions in every Premier League game so far this term whilst Liverpool have earned more corners than any other side (111).
• Former Hammer Glen Johnson has had 10 more shots than any other defender in the Premier League this season (24) and has scored in his last two appearances against his old club.
Lee Probert will be the 23rd man on the pitch during Sunday's clash between West Ham and Liverpool. The 40-year-old from South Gloucestershire has officiated 14 games during the 2012-13 campaign to date showing 38 yellows and 1 red card in the process. Neither side has come across Probert in the Premier League this season but he did take charge of Liverpool's elimination from the League Cup to Swansea City in October. Probert will be assisted by Simon Beck and Stephen Child. The fourth official will be Mike Jones.
This should prove to be an interesting game and there is unlikely to be a large margin of victory for either side. West Ham bounced back from a couple of poor results by defeating Chelsea 3-1 at Upton Park last weekend which goes to show they cannot be taken lightly. Liverpool have only lost 1 of their last 10 league fixtures and even in that match (against Tottenham Hotspur) they performed well. Goals have of course been the issue however and with Suarez suspended another draw is probably the smart bet. Vital Liverpool predicts 0-0.
West Ham United - Premier League v West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns on Sunday 16th December 2012, kick off 4.00pm.
Liverpool - Premier League v Aston Villa at Anfield on Saturday 15th December 2012, kick off 3.00pm.
So that's what we think, how about you? Let us know your thoughts and predictions for the game below or vote in our poll to the right...
Click here to read our interview with a West Ham fan
Click here to read former Red Mark Lawrenson's prediction
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