Preview: Liverpool v West Ham
Can the Reds go 63 matches unbeaten at Anfield — and equal the club’s all-time record for an unbeaten league run at home?
LIVERPOOL VS. WEST HAM UNITED
| Saturday, October 31st |
Premier League | Anfield
5:30PM GMT/1:30PM EST
David Moyes comes to the home of the reigning champions hoping to right a troubling pattern in his managerial career: he has not won a single game at Anfield in his 16 attempts with four different clubs (Everton, Manchester United, Sunderland and West Ham United).
The Hammers have started 2020/21 brightly. After losing the opening two Premier League matches, West Ham have not lost in the previous four, drawing with both Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, and defeating Leicester City and Wolves — though they were defeated by Everton in the Fourth Round of the Carabao Cup. Barring the 1-1 draw with Manchester City last time out, West Ham games have been quite high-scoring affairs, with 26 total goals (17 for, 9 against) scored in just the last five fixtures.
The absence of star-man Mikhail Antonio might prove a challenge for Moyes, though Jarrod Bowen and Sébastien Haller will be expected to fill in for the tricky forward at Anfield. New(ish) boy Tomáš Souček is also one to watch: he’s been in good form for West Ham this season, recycling possession well and playing smart passes to start attacks. He is also strong defensively, and will be the major hurdle for the Reds.
As always worth mentioning with Virgil Van Dijk out of the side: West Ham are a tall squad, with their average height coming in at just below 6 feet (180 cm). Since the restart, they have created 55 shots from set pieces (including corners), scoring 10. It’s likely that Moyes will have concentrated on set plays as an area to exploit in Van Dijk’s absence.
Projected Liverpool Lineup (4-3-3)
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Williams, Gomez, Robertson; Henderson, Thiago, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mané
Real predicted lineup: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Williams, Gomez, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum; Firmino, Jota, Salah, Mané
Quite honestly, who knows what we’ll see at center of dense tomorrow and moving forward. You assume Klopp will aim to get Joël Matip back for Manchester City, as you wouldn’t imagine the manager will want to sacrifice a midfielder for the role against Pep Guardiola’s side, and it would be a big ask to field youngster Rhys Williams at the Etihad.
Reports of Mikhail Antionio being out for this one will be a boon for Klopp (just as the absence of Virgil Van Dijk will be a boost for Moyes’ side), as Antonio is hard to deal with. With Antonio’s unpredictability out of the squad, Klopp might favor minutes for Williams as Matip and Fabinho work to return to fitness.
Luckily Jordan Henderson’s halftime substitution was not required by injury but was rather a “responsible” move from the manager, so we can expect to see the captain in the side. If Thiago is fit he might get a start to help the Reds thread through what will likely be a crowded West Ham midfield and defense; he might be held to making an impact off the bench, though, as Klopp is managing a very difficult schedule and choosing how best to allocate minutes. James Milner put in quite a few minutes midweek, which might make the midfield harder for Klopp to sort out than usual. A such, return to the 4-2-3-1 with either Takumi Minamino or Roberto Firmino in front of Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum (and Diogo Jota slotting in) is possible, and is frankly quite likely.
I’ve predicted a 4-3-3 with Thiago to start purely due to optimism on squad health (and the knowledge that the 4-2-3-1 is graft to watch as the players seem to still be figuring out how the system works), but the manager kept his cards close to his chest in his pre-match press conference, and Thiago likely won’t feature. Don’t be surprised by graft regardless of system, though, as West Ham are well organized and will look to stifle creativity regardless of formation.
West Ham have started the season brightly, but Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah have been involved in eight goals in six games against West Ham, with 11 goals and six assists between them. Mané has scored in each of his last four appearances against West Ham, and will look to continue this deadly pattern. Diogo Jota, who has scored in each of his two Premier League appearances, will look to score in each of his first three if given the chance; the last player to do this was one Luis García.
Also a notable positive: should he start today, it will be Trent Alexander-Arnold’s 100th league start. This accomplishment follows quickly after Andy Robertson’s similar accomplishment and Salah’s 100th goal — these markers coming in rapid succession underscore the stability within the squad.
What the Managers Had to Say
Jurgen Klopp, speaking on the schedule challenges this season, and changing formations: “It’s more difficult — nearly impossible, but it’s possible … My job is to use the squad in the best possible way, and that’s what I try to do.”
David Moyes, looking for his first win at Anfield: “Probably the biggest thing going up to play Liverpool is without their supporters: their support makes such a difference, with no crowd behind them hopefully that might make a difference as well.”
Referee: Kevin Friend Assistants: Simon Beck, Eddie Smart Fourth Official: Craig Pawson VAR: Chris Kavanagh Assistant VAR: Sian Massey-Ellis
Kickoff is set for 3PM GMT/10AM EST tomorrow, and television listings for the match can be found on LiveSoccerTV. In the meantime, we’ll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it’s released, our live matchday thread, and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on the action as it happens.