West Ham United moved a step closer to securing their Barclays Premier League future with a valuable 2-1 away win against struggling Sunderland on Monday night. The Hammers now entertain high flying Liverpool, which remains the only unbeaten side in 2014, on Sunday, 4 pm kickoff.
While Liverpool, who are in scintillating form themselves, face the Hammers’ giant striker Andy Carroll on Sunday for the first time since his £15m switch to West Ham in the summer. After recovering from the knee injury that has dogged his campaign, the 25-year-old will be champing at the bit to prove a point against his old club. A repeat of the man-of-the-match performance against Sunderland in midweek could see Carroll break Liverpool’s unbeaten streak in 2014.
With the strike partnership of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez on a goalscoring tear that could yet eclipse more milestones, the Hammers will find it tough keeping the SAS quiet. That, even before you take stock of the fact Liverpool haven’t failed to score in the last 22 league games. And with a first league title in their crosshairs since 1990, the Reds will be looking for a ninth successive victory – a feat last achieved in 2006.
This game could well be a clash of contrasting styles, with Liverpool’s fast, high-pressing, counter-attacking setup, pitted against a more organized long ball and physical game. Having virtually secured a place in the top flight, this game should and perhaps would be treated like a cup-final by Liverpool as the reds are chasing their first league title in over two decades.
West Ham were beaten 4-1 at Anfield in the first meeting this season back in December.
As far as West Ham is concerned, George McCartney is a huge doubt as stated by the manager. Whilst Andy Carroll is fit to face his former side. Besides that they don’t miss anybody and Allardyce has a large squad to choose from for this game against the Merseysiders. This is what Allardyce had to say in his press conference regarding the team for Sunday,
“Kevin Nolan is ok. George McCartney is the biggest doubt. He came off with a hamstring problem on Monday night. It’s probably caused by a bit of fatigue and the fact he played three games in a short space of time, so it looks as though he’ll miss out on Sunday”
Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool are likely to have the same squad as in recent weeks with Jose Enrique the only absentee with a knee injury he picked up earlier on in the season.
- There have been three own goals in the last three Barclays Premier League meetings between the Hammers and the Reds.
- Glen Johnson has scored in three of his last five Barclays Premier League games against former club West Ham, including the last two trips to the Boleyn Ground.
- 60% of Liverpool’s goals have been scored in the first half, the highest proportion of any team in the top flight this season.
- Liverpool have hit the woodwork more times than any other team this season (24), while West Ham’s uprights have been struck the most (20).
- Liverpool have dropped more points from winning positions than any other team in the Premier League away from home (12).
Stewart Downing – West Ham
Stewart Downing has started 23 games this season plus three substitute appearances and has been a steady performer for the East London side. He has set up 2 goals for his team thus far, with a total of 47 chances created including assists. He boasts a good crossing accuracy with 28% of his crosses finding a teammate which is very vital when you have aerially dominant players in Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan. If West Ham are to stretch Liverpool, it is this man who they can count on to deliver the goods.
Daniel Sturridge – Liverpool
Daniel Sturridge has been in phenomenal form this season with the Englishman scoring 20 goals this season and has set up 7 goals for his teammates. His partnership with Suarez is already considered as good as any in Europe. He boasts a very good conversion rate of 59% which is impressive and he holds the key to Liverpool’s chances against West Ham.
I can’t look beyond Liverpool in this game as they would be the more determined side to win this fixture. Therefore, I’ll go for a 1-3 win for the away side.