A win would see Brendan Rodgers’ team climb above West Ham in the table and, if results go the way of Liverpool, the Reds could end the weekend in 8th place; the highest position they would have managed all season.
Unfortunately for Liverpool, the game was made that bit more difficult when star striker Luis Suarez picked up a needless yellow card in last weekend’s match against Southampton – meaning the Uruguayan misses out through suspension after accumulating five yellow cards so far this campaign.
Suarez’s suspension leaves Rodgers with no first-team strikers available to him with Fabio Borini still nursing a broken foot. Whether the manager goes for an unproven young striker such as Adam Morgan or Michael Ngoo, or tries again with the ‘false nine’ tactic he employed against Young Boys recently in the Europa League, remains to be seen. It is more likely that Rodgers will afford Jonjo Shelvey the opportunity to play furthest forward out of all the attacking options on the pitch rather than pile the pressure on young shoulders for an important league contest.
Sunday’s match is an interesting prospect as it pits together two teams with completely different styles. Liverpool, under relatively new manager Brendan Rodgers, enjoy playing their football on the deck and are advised to work the ball into the box and pass their way to victory. On the other hand, West Ham, under the watchful eyes of renowned long-ball specialist ‘Big’ Sam Allardyce, tend to compete in a different manner.
The Hammers often look to win football matches off the ball more than they do on it. Allardyce sets his team out to completely outmuscle the opposition and force them into submission, while attempting to nick a few goals in the process. Despite the fact that this style of play can sometimes be unattractive, there is no denying it is one that has worked well for Big Sam both in the past and present – especially during his successful time as Bolton Wanderers boss.
There is scope for Allardyce to change his plans now that target man Andy Carroll, on loan from Liverpool, is out for up to two months through injury. However, with Carlton Cole seemingly second choice frontman for the Hammers, it is unlikely the Reds will see anything other than a physical approach from West Ham at the weekend.
The style of Allardyce at West Ham is typified by the fact that one of their best players is the industrious Mohamed Diamé. The lofty defensive midfielder played one of his best games in his three and a half years in English football last weekend when he ran the show against European Champions Chelsea in West Ham’s 3-1 victory over Rafa Benitez’s side. If Liverpool are to be successful against the Hammers, they will need to prevent Diamé from playing his own game and being at his brilliant best.
The biggest question that will be posed to Rodgers will be whether he should stick to his usual style and try and outplay West Ham rather than outmuscle them and try to earn the three points that way or whether or not Liverpool should play Allardyce’s men at their own game. For me, sticking to our usual tactics would suffice as long as the team that plays on Sunday are committed to the cause and give their all against tough opposition.
Will Liverpool’s strengths outweigh West Ham’s strengths? We will find out on Sunday in what should be an exciting encounter; one which could provide Liverpool with a crucial win in their quest for a Christmas challenge on the top six.
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