3pm EST, live in the US on Setanta Xtra and Setanta Broadband. Delayed showing on Setanta at 6pm, which is probably when I’ll see the match.
Last 4 head-to-head:
0-1 West Ham (h) 01.30.08
2-1 Liverpool (a) 01.30.07
2-1 Liverpool (h) 08.26.06
3-3 Liverpool aet (FA Cup Final) 05.13.06
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 3-1 Bolton (a); 3-2 Boro (h); 2-0 Inter (h)
West Ham: 0-4 Chelsea (h); 1-0 Fulham (a); 1-1 Brum (h)
Liverpool: Torres 15; Gerrard 8; Babel 4; Benayoun, Kuyt, Voronin 3; Alonso, Crouch 2; Aurelio, Hyypia, Sissoko 1
West Ham: Ashton 5; Bowyer 4; Cole, Etherington, Solano 3; Bellamy, Ferdinand, Noble 2; Ljungberg, McCartney, Parker, Upson 1
Referee: Steve Bennett
Guess at a squad:
Arbeloa Carragher Hyypia Aurelio
Benayoun Gerrard Babel
With Newcastle on Saturday before the Inter match in a week, I imagine Benitez will ring more changes over the weekend than he will tomorrow. We’ve seen much more consistency in both the team and the formation over the last few weeks, since Liverpool exited both domestic cup competitions.
In that vein, I’m hoping for much the same line-up as the last couple of matches. Other than Finnan and Voronin, Liverpool has no injury worries, but with Agger starting for the ressies tonight, he’ll miss out as well.
I think there’s a future for the 4-2-3-1, with Torres leading the line, Gerrard more influential in a free role, Alonso and Mascherano a fearsome pairing, and Kuyt getting more comfortable as a wide attacker (although I still think both Pennant and Benayoun are options on either flank, even in the 4-2-3-1).
And hopefully, players like Kuyt, Benayoun, Pennant, Babel, Lucas, and Crouch will complement that spine, and will rotate (as an aside, it’s embarrassing how “rotate” now feels like a dirty word) game-to-game depending on form, fitness, and the opposition.
It’s been said often of late, but this is another big test of Liverpool’s league capabilities. The team’s on a three-game winning streak in all competitions, and hasn’t lost in the league since the match at Upton Park a little over a month ago. Points are essential with Everton still on excellent pace in the race for fourth.
This is the game-in-hand that’s been a saving grace when looking at the table over the past few months, and Liverpool has to take advantage. And Liverpool will have even more incentive for all three points after the stomach-punch loss last month thanks to an unnecessary late penalty.
West Ham’s something of a wounded animal recently, smashed by Chelsea by 4 goals at home over the weekend, and leveling off around 10th place in the league. There’s always the chance for a reaction after a bad loss that catalyzes the team. Were Bellamy fit, I’d be even more worried, but the Hammers are still a very good counter-attacking team, and the defense will have to be better than they were against Boro (and on set plays against Bolton).
It’s starting to feel like I’m counting my chickens before they’re hatched, hoping for 12 points from 12 between the Champions League ties. And West Ham will be no walkovers, as the match in late January proved.
But with the way the team is improving, and becoming more consistent, Liverpool’s more than capable of doing the necessary job tomorrow.