Liverpool face Sam Allardyce’s West Ham United at Upton Park on Sunday. The Reds secured their place in the last 32 of the Europa League after securing a nervy but dominating 1-0 win at Udinese on Thursday evening. This was unbelievably important, as it affects our UEFA coefficient, which takes into account our last 5 seasons in European competition. Not so long ago LFC were ranked top in Europe after winning, last 16, finalists, semi finalists, and quarter finalists. But since then we have been Europa semi finalists, nothing and nothing.
The Hammers currently sit three points and three places above us and have only lost once in the league at Upton Park this season, a 1-3 reverse against Arsenal in October. The corresponding LFC fixture in 2010/11 ended in a 1-3 defeat for Liverpool, but West Ham still ended the campaign being relegated, finishing last. Goals from Scott Parker and Demba Ba had put the Hammers 2-0 up at half-time. Glen Johnson pulled one back for Liverpool with six minutes remaining before Carlton Cole sealed the win in injury time. Prior to that defeat the Reds had won five of the previous six league visits to Upton Park.
LFC have not had a great preparation to this match after their flight was cancelled in Italy, and they had to stay Thursday night there instead of back in Liverpool.
Despite the options available to Rodgers, it is becoming increasingly obvious he has favourites, or he doesn’t trust the other squad players…namely Defenders: Flanagan, Coates, Robinson Midfielders: Sahin, Assaidi, Cole Strikers: Yesil, Morgan. All of these players would probably expect to get more playing time under another manager for various reasons. Sahin was Bundesliga player of the year, the same year that Robben, Osil, Khedra, Huntlaar, Podolski etc were playing, and yet he is restricted to Europa League cameos. Flanagan Coates and Robinson would expect to step into the back line, except Downing will get that slot. Assaidi has been electric since arriving, albeit without any end product, but that could be said about Sterling or any other player except Suarez. Cole is a lost cause, in the same category as Downing, but wont even be on the bench for a visit to his youth club. And with no striker in the team, Yesil and Morgan might reasonably hope to get a shot. Yesil was U18 German player of the year, but I predict Shelvey to take on the false 9 slot vacated by Suarez.
Predicted Line Up
West Ham Connections
Andy Carroll (knee) is ruled out, while there are doubts over Yossi Benayoun (knee) for West Ham. (not sure why there isn’t a a clause preventing Andy Carroll from playing against LFC anyway!)
Liverpool have signed four players directly from West Ham with the most expensive being Yossi Benayoun, joining for £5m in July 2007. 11 Reds have made the move to Upton Park, with nine of those transfers occurring between 1993 and 2007. Craig Bellamy has brought in the largest fee when he joined the Hammers in July 2007 for £7.5m.