The Premier League season has kicked off, ending the three-month-long wait the Premier League fans had to endure. There are still some fans who are waiting for one thing or the other. Liverpool fans are waiting for their first Premier League title since 28 years. Similarly, West Ham United fans are waiting for their side to turn into a stable, top-half of the table team. The teams representing these fans will clash on Sunday afternoon as they kick-off their league seasons.
While Liverpool fans perpetually believe that “this is going to be their year”, this time around pundits do believe that if any team can challenge Manchester City for the title, it will be the Reds. An attack that scored 91 goals last season, has been bolstered by the form of Daniel Sturridge and the signing of Xherdan Shaqiri. The midfield, which was creaking at the end of last season has impressive incomings such as Naby Keita and Fabinho. At the back, the Reds have signed Alisson Becker, who is now the second-most-expensive goalkeeper in the world. The defence is still a bit of a problem but Jurgen Klopp will hope that his side will be able to brush past the Hammers easily. The reason for that belief can be Liverpool’s pre-season form – the Reds have won the last four and scored freely in all their games.
West Ham, under their new manager – the Premier League winner Manuel Pellegrini – have started well. They boast of a record slightly better than Liverpool in the pre-season. They have also heavily refreshed their side with several new signings. The vibe around the club seems to be much better than what it was in the second half of last season. If they can get out of the blocks quickly, somewhat like they did the season before last, Pellegrini can lead them to the top half of the table.
- Liverpool have scored four goals in each of their last three Premier League clashes with West Ham – the only side to have scored 4+ against another in four straight games in the competition are Tottenham against Stoke.
- West Ham have won only one of their last 45 top-flight visits to Anfield to face Liverpool (D12 L32), with that win coming in August 2015 (3-0).
- The last Liverpool player to score in three consecutive opening top-flight fixtures – as Sadio Mane could do – was John Barnes between 1989-90 and 1991-92.
- New West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini has lost more Premier League games against Liverpool than he has vs any other opponent in the competition (P6 W2 D0 L4).
Last season a new superstar was unearthed in the Premier League and in Europe. While the usual suspects – Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar continued to shine brightly, Mohamed Salah joined Liverpool, for what now seems to be a paltry fee and took the league (as well as Europe) by storm. At the end of 2017-18, Salah was contributing goals at a rate of more than a goal scored or assisted per 90 minutes. If he continues at that rate, this season could also an exhilarating ride for the Reds. Klopp would want his key attacker to start the season well.
While West Ham cannot match the Reds’ firepower up front, their attack is quite potent and the leader of their attack is Marko Arnautovic. The Austrian has declared himself as raring to go and has scored five goals in seven pre-season games. Arnautovic ended last season at a goal contribution rate 0f 0.55 goals per 90 minutes. While he has not been scoring many headed goals but he will also be a major threat at set pieces, which have ailed Liverpool for a very long time.
The season has not yet kicked off and Jurgen Klopp is already struggling with selection issues. While the forwards and even the midfield pick themselves, in central defence, Lovren is not yet match-ready and Klavan and Matip are injured. That just leaves Virgil van Dijk as the established defender. It is likely that Klopp will get Joe Gomez to partner with van Dijk. Elsewhere, Liverpool might not have the services of Fabinho for this game as he is down with an illness. What will be interesting to note will be how Klopp uses Daniel Sturridge and Shaqiri in this game.
For West Ham, Andy Carroll, Manuel Lanzini, Winston Reid and Michail Antonio are the confirmed absentees due to long-term injuries. At the same time, Yarmolenko and Edmilson Fernandes could also miss Sunday’s game.
Liverpool are unbeaten in 21 league games at home and West Ham rarely win at Anfield. Liverpool should be able to win easily on Sunday – the challenge will be to score 4 goals and win.
Liverpool 3 – 0 West Ham