So far this campaign, West Ham United and Liverpool have yet to consolidate any clear identity in terms of what agendas both sides will be competing towards this season.
The Hammers are currently just above the relegation zone in 16th place, with only two wins from their first ten league games. Saturday’s visitors Liverpool occupy 6th position, and whilst only trailing 4th place Chelsea by three points, are already 12 points behind top of the table Manchester City.
It will be intriguing to discover how Slaven Bilic’s side react, to what was an eventually painful result at the end of last week’s trip to Crystal Palace in their most recent league outing. Following a superb 3-2 turnaround against Tottenham Hotspur in the Carabao Cup three days prior, the Hammers’ raced into a two-goal lead at Selhurst Park, with goals from Javier Hernandez and Andre Ayew.
Whilst the hosts halved the deficit early in the second half, an inspired performance from goalkeeper Joe Hart looked to have given West Ham maximum points, only for a Wilfried Zaha 96th minute equalizer to level the contest at 2-2, in what Bilic described as a result that felt very much like a defeat.
In contrast, Liverpool come into the game on the back of two consecutive three goal victories without reply. Wednesday’s somewhat expected defeat of Slovenian side Maribor in the Champions League, was a mirrored performance and outcome of the Red’s last domestic fixture.
Saturday’s meeting will be the second occasion the two sides have met at West Ham’s new residence. On their first visit to the London Stadium, Liverpool came away as 4-0 victors, in a result that equalled their biggest ever winning margin in a game at West Ham. Prior to that visit in May 2017, the Reds had lost on their last three consecutive trips to the former Boleyn Ground, twice in the league, and once in the FA Cup.
The hosts captain Winston Reid is set to return to the squad, following a minor calf issue, which is a huge boost considering that defenders Sam Byram, James Collins and Jose Fonte will all miss Saturday’s encounter through various injuries, as well as Pablo Zabaleta having to sit out through suspension.
Whilst playmaker Phillipe Coutinho is a guaranteed absentee for Jurgen Klopp’s side, there is a possibility that striker Sadio Mane may feature in some capacity following a recent hamstring issue, and further decisions will be made on the fitness of midfielder Wijnaldum, and defender Dejan Lovren.
The first goal may well prove to play a pivotal part in this encounter. Whilst Liverpool’s home form has seen them concede only once at Anfield, the second-best record in the league behind Manchester United. Away from Anfield, they have conceded 15 times, which is more than any other side in the league.
West Ham’s strength of character will certainly have been put to the test following last weekend’s result. I would expect the home side to come out all guns blazing, with Andy Carroll being utilized as a focal point to test Liverpool’s inconsistent defensive line.
Liverpool’s main strength is certainly their pace on the counter attack, which may well be the perfect foil for this fixture. With the speed of Mohamed Salah in particular, the Hammers’ potential makeshift defence will have to be at their very best to keep the Reds out for 90 minutes.
The bookmakers have the visitors as 4/6 favourites, with the hosts at 9/2, which is perhaps understandably tempting to some. Somewhat surprisingly, the last time these two teams drew was back in September 2000 when the Hammers were hosts, covering a period of 12 previous contests.
With such a result so long overdue, perhaps this weekend may be the time to back a draw.
Score Prediction: West Ham United 2 – 2 Liverpool