We’re quite proud of ourselves after we tipped Bournemouth to get the better of Liverpool at Dean Court last weekend. But there was method to our madness, as Liverpool’s defence is still unconvincing, especially without Joel Matip’s calm head.
And going forward there’s a serious lack of fluency and inspiration, with Lallana and Coutinho out of the team. The bright side for the Reds is that Lallana should be fit to start against West Ham, having come off the bench at Bournemouth.
The stats are pretty conclusive: Without Matip Liverpool have conceded nine in three matches this season, and with him they’ve let in the same amount, but in 11 matches.
And when you look at his teammates at the back, especially Milner and Lovren, you understand how crucial the Cameroonian is to Liverpool’s title hopes. He offers a lot of height and power but also helps to organise a very motley backline.
You can also see why Klopp seems to prefer unconventional forwards to traditional strikers up front. With Sturridge and Origi the combinations aren’t quite as fluid.
One option might be to push Wijnaldum further forward into Coutinho’s spot now that Lallana is fit again. The Dutch midfielder can play on the wing and grabbed 11 goals from that position in a dire Newcastle team last season.
But still Favourites
Whatever happened last weekend, Liverpool are still dead certs to overcome West Ham. As we’ve mentioned, Lallana’s return helps.
But with Mané and Firmino still in the side there are two members of that livewire attack that dazzled us all earlier in the season. And in midfield Henderson and Can have the work ethic and tactical sense to insulate the Reds against counter attacks, where West Ham are most dangerous.
Woeful West Ham
At the start of the season you’d have got amazing betting odds for West Ham to go down. They were moving to a palatial new stadium, had one of the best players at the Euros and looked ready to build on their seventh place in 2015-16.
But now things look bleak for Bilić, and West Ham need to recover quickly to lift the gloom. And at the moment their best chances of doing this are on the road, because the London Stadium seems to be a millstone.
Insult to Injury
The constant disruptions through injury haven’t helped. Cresswell and Antonio, two of last season’s leading lights, are out of the frame at the moment.
Andy Carroll played got his first minutes since the start of the season against Arsenal, while Lanzini, also fantastic last year, is only just getting back to full fitness.
Bet on More Gloom
But these issues are only part of the problem. New signings like Nordtveit and Zaza have been a disaster, while the usually reliable Mark Noble has had a woeful season so far.
And worst of all, after the humiliation at home to Arsenal Bilić talked about a lack of intensity in training.
It would be a shame after such a promising campaign last year, but if the Croatian boss is unable to get his players fired up it’s difficult to see a way out for West Ham right now.
Ray of Light
But to end on a positive note, West Ham do have Payet. The French star hasn’t been at his best this season, but he is still the main source of creativity.
And with Andy Carroll back and sharp enough to snatch a goal against Arsenal, Payet’s dead balls and Carroll’s aerial dominance could reap rewards against that dodgy Liverpool defence.
Liverpool vs West Ham Prediction
Everything points to a win for Liverpool, who are favourites with the bookies for a reason. For all the Reds’ injury difficulties, they are nothing compared to the crisis facing their opponents on Sunday.
Liverpool will need to be careful not to concede cheap set pieces, but their short passing game should make inroads through that soft Hammers midfield and porous backline. West Ham’s extremely long odds of 9.00 still aren’t enough to convince us they’re worth a punt.