2:45pm EST, live in the US on Setanta Xtra. As the game’s only live on Setanta Xtra, chances are I'll have the review up after the delayed Setanta showing that starts at 7:45pm.
Last 4 head-to-head:
2-1 Liverpool (a) 01.30.07
2-1 Liverpool (h) 08.26.06
3-3 aet Liverpool (FA Cup Final) 05.13.06
2-1 Liverpool (a) 04.26.06
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 5-2 Havant (h); 2-2 Villa (h): 5-0 Luton (h)
West Ham: 1-1 City (a); 0-1 City (a); 2-1 Fulham (h)
Liverpool: Torres 11; Gerrard 7; Babel, Benayoun, Kuyt, Voronin 3; Alonso 2; Crouch, Hyypia, Sissoko 1
West Ham: Ashton 5; Bowyer 4; Cole, Etherington 3; Bellamy, Ferdinand, Solano 2; McCartney, Noble, Parker, Upson 1
Referee: Alan Wiley
Guess at a squad:
Finnan Carragher Hyypia Aurelio
Benayoun Gerrard Alonso Kewell
Like usual when there’s two games in less than a week, I think we’ll see a bit of rotation from the team that went out against Havant on Saturday. Players like Carragher, Gerrard, Torres, Reina and Alonso will surely return to the line-up, while I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kuyt and Kewell come back into the side as well.
Mascherano is suspended, having picked up five yellow cards in the league, while Agger, Arbeloa, and Voronin will miss the game through injury.
Surely Benayoun has to start again after notching a hat-trick? It’ll be his first game against the Hammers since leaving the club in July. I imagine he’ll slot in for Pennant on the right, but with Kewell underperforming (although not as badly as some others in the squad, and he is still working his way back to fitness following a lengthy injury), perhaps Yossi will stay out on the left (where he started on Saturday). But regardless of who plays on the wings, I imagine we’ll see them switch flanks, as against Havant and as happened earlier in the season before Pennant’s injury.
I realize many have been slamming Kuyt of late, including yours truly, but its not as if Liverpool’s overflowing with options up front. Crouch did not look good on Saturday, despite the goal (although he wasn’t paired with Torres), while Voronin’s injured and I can’t remember Babel starting two games in a week.
There’s an option of playing Benayoun centrally, as happened in the second half of the Havant match, but I don’t think we’ve seen Liverpool deploy a five-man midfield away from home this season. Kuyt’s been getting into decent positions, and (unsurprisingly) still shows 100% in his work rate (unlike a certain striker on Saturday). Like Crouch in his first season at Liverpool, once he breaks his luck in front of goal, more will come. And like Crouch in his first season, it’s important for the fans to stay behind the player through this goal drought.
Everyone’s sick of the repeated mantra that Liverpool needs to play better. There’s been enough talking off the pitch; the players need to start doing it on the field. By my count Liverpool’s had five disappointing league performances in a row, and it goes without saying that’s not good enough.
Benitez is partly right though; it is a matter of confidence. And a good performance away at West Ham, where Liverpool has a decent record over the past few meetings, is as good a place as any to start.