Liverpool v West Ham: Can Hammers make the most of Gerrard absence?
Can Hammers pick up their first win at Anfield since 1963
After capturing 10 points from a possible 12 it looked like Liverpool had turned a corner, before they were beaten 2-0 by Stoke City on Saturday.
After a poor start to the league season under new boss Roy Hodgson, the Reds beat Bolton and Blackburn before playing champions Chelsea off the park at Anfield a fortnight ago.
Lucas turned into the tough tackling, ball-winning midfielder Liverpool fans had always hoped he become, Raul Meireles temporarily banished memories of Xabi Alonso, Steven Gerrard was outstanding and of course Fernando Torres was back in the goals.
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Instead of kicking on, the Merseyside outfit threw away a lead at Wigan before succumbing at the weekend.
Inconsistency has been their biggest concern, while their inability to create too many opportunities last Saturday will leave Hodgson concerned.
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There has been a huge reliance on Torres and Gerrard going forward, which is why the return from injury of Dirk Kuyt will be a major boost, while injury problems at the back, meaning a continual rotation of the back four, have been far from helpful.
Key to the game
The battle to win the midfield will be key, with Scott Parker, Mark Noble and a probably returning, Valon Behrami set to face off against Meireles and Christian Poulsen with skipper Steven Gerrard out injured. It’s an intriguing contest and one which is winnable for the Hammers, especially if the Liverpool skipper is having an off day.
It will be vital that like he did against Birmingham, Behrami pushes forward into the opposition box or it will be likely that Carlton Cole will be left isolated.
Both defences have looked shaky at times this season and with the pace of Torres to contend with, the Hammers will probably play deeper, so he will not be allowed to make too many telling runs.
LIVERPOOL have class in Fernando Torres which West Ham simply cannot match and if he can play to their potential West Ham will struggle to keep him quiet.
The hosts have been beaten by Blackpool at home and at times this season, their performances at Anfield have been particularly poor.
West Ham are at their best when the pressure is off and don’t be surprised to see them put on a spirited show, but the class of the aforementioned player will likely prove too much.
Prediction: Liverpool 2 West Ham 1
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