Liverpool vs West Ham preview: Can Bilic end Hammers' Anfield hoodoo?
Can Bilic end the injury-hit Hammers' Anfield hoodoo?
- Arsenal 0-0 Liverpool (Prem)
- Liverpool 1-0 B’mouth (Prem)
- Stoke 0-1 Liverpool (Prem)
- Swindon 1-2 Liverpool (F)
- HJK 0-2 Liverpool (F)
WEST HAM FORM
- West Ham 3-4 B’mouth (Prem)
- West Ham 1-2 Leicester (Prem)
- Arsenal 0-2 West Ham (Prem)
- Astra 2-1 West Ham (EL)
- West Ham 1-2 W Bremen (F)
The last time West Ham United emerged victorious from a match at Anfield, England had never won the World Cup. It was September 1963 – so far back that Baddiel and Skinner must've considered laying down a track to mark the 50th anniversary two years ago – in a season when Liverpool lost their first three home games of the season.
Goals from Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst, who both went on to score in a much bigger game three years later, secured a 2-1 win for Ron Greenwood's Hammers, and afterwards Liverpool boss Bill Shankly was called into the Anfield boardroom to explain himself. “I assure you, gentlemen,” he said, “that before the end of the season we will win a home game!” They went on to win 16 of the next 18 at Anfield to clinch the league title, a triumph that sparked many more for the Reds.
Forty-two fruitless league visits to Anfield later and West Ham supporters have still not returned to East London having witnessed a victory. Indeed, they've only seen their side score 16 times in that 42-game spell and nine of those goals came between 1964 and 1975. Things have been so bad that their only goalscorer in the last seven matches at Anfield is Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel. And he didn't even mean it
With Liverpool beginning the season in fine defensive form with three consecutive clean sheets – two of them at Stoke and Arsenal where they shipped 10 goals last year – and West Ham having so many strikers on the treatment table that Holby City might put a few bids in before the transfer window closes, the prospects of Slaven Bilic's men getting anything on Merseyside look bleak. But then that's what everybody thought before they went to Arsenal on the opening weekend only to secure a well-deserved 2-0 victory.
If Hammers fans are wondering where the goals will come from, then Kopites may also be thinking the same. Seven points from nine represents an excellent start to the campaign and Brendan Rodgers' men created enough chances at Arsenal to have won there, too, but the fact remains that their only goals so far this season have been a Philippe Coutinho wonder-strike at Stoke and a close-range Christian Benteke finish against Bournemouth that even the Premier League admitted should have been disallowed.
However, having started their season in the Europa League qualifiers so early that Sam Allardyce barely had time to clear his lunches out of the fridge at Chadwell Heath, West Ham appear to have suffered from defensive fatigue in recent weeks, conceding six goals in surprise home defeats to Leicester and Bournemouth. With first choice keeper Adrian still suspended and Liverpool's attack looking on the verge of clicking, everything suggests that the Hammers’ Anfield hoodoo will continue on Saturday... but maybe not for as long as it will take England to win another World Cup.
Liverpool were without skipper Jordan Henderson (foot) and Adam Lallana (bruised quad) at Arsenal with Emre Can and Roberto Firmino stepping in. Both could well keep their places even if Henderson and Lallana return as Rodgers has indicated he will only use defensive midfielder Lucas in certain games – mainly away from home – while the Anfield crowd are keen to see their new Brazilian attacker from the start. Jordon Ibe could be another starter if Rodgers opts to play Coutinho in a slightly deeper role.
West Ham are without strikers Andy Carroll (knee), Enner Valencia (leg) and Mauro Zarate (hamstring) so the groin injury that forced Diafra Sakho off against Bournemouth last weekend couldn't have been worse timed. Press talk that a new striker could be signed in time to play at Anfield is rife, while at the other end of the pitch Darren Randolph will again deputise in goal for the suspended Adrian, Carl Jenkinson is also banned after being dismissed against Leicester (the Hammers won't be winning the Fair Play League this season!) and Bilic will hope that 16-year-old Reece Oxford has recovered from a knock.
Key battle: James Milner vs Mark Noble
Milner's pressing and commitment in central areas has given the Reds' midfield an energetic new feel, and while Coutinho is the danger man, stopping Liverpool from getting the ball to the Brazilian is a key task for Noble. Milner made more passes than any other Liverpool player at Arsenal and Stats Zone shows that Milner to Coutinho was the Reds' most prolific pass combination (13) in the 1-0 win against Bournemouth. If Noble can nullify that supply line, West Ham's chances of getting a result will greatly increase.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- L’pool 2-0 W Ham (PL, Jan 15)
- W Ham 3-1 L’pool (PL, Sep 14)
- W Ham 1-2 L'pool (PL, Apr 14)
- L'pool 4-1 W Ham (PL, Dec 13)
- L'pool 0-0 W Ham (PL, Apr 13)
It's been a good week for Rodgers. A hard-fought 0-0 draw at the Emirates was only Liverpool's third clean sheet in the last 38 meetings with Arsenal and further proof that his side have a new defensive resilience. Even better, he's managed to offload Mario Balotelli back to Milan for a full season on loan. Yes, Liverpool are paying part of his wages for the Italian not to score goals for them, but then last season they were paying all of his wages for him not to score goals for them, so that has to be progress. Such is the striker injury crisis at West Ham that perhaps the only surprise is that Bilic wasn't linked with a move for the eccentric Italian.
Bilic got one over on Rodgers last season – his Besiktas side knocked the Reds out of the Europa League after Dejan Lovren skied his penalty in an Istanbul shootout – but he's never won in four visits to Anfield as a player or manager, although given half of those games were for West Ham that's not particularly surprising.
Facts and figures
- West Ham have scored with 31.6% of their shots so far this season (6 from 19 shots), a league-high.
- West Ham have been given 5 red cards in their 9 competitive games this season, compared to 3 in 43 games in 2014/15.
- Christian Benteke has been involved in the most aerial challenges in the Premier League this season (51), closely followed by the Hammers’ Diafra Sakho (46).
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Liverpool look solid at the back, but can they start scoring some goals? We reckon so. 2-0.