For a while it appeared as though Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Maribor was going to be ‘one of those games’ yet again for Liverpool: we enjoyed a ridiculous 83% possession in the first half, but simply could not put the ball in the back of the net.
Thankfully Mo Salah broke the deadlock early in the second half, and from there you just felt like the floodgates would open against a side whom the Reds plastered 7-0 just a few weeks prior.
It didn’t quite pan out that way, although further goals from Daniel Sturridge and Emre Can added a pleasing amount of gloss to proceedings. There was even a missed penalty from James Milner into the bargain.
So mission accomplished then for Jurgen Klopp, who simply wanted his side to win at all costs. Avoid defeat against Spartak Moscow and we are all but guaranteed a place in the last 16 of the Champions League.
There was a worrying knock suffered by Gigi Wijnaldum though, who was subbed off as early as the 17th minute after appearing to twist his ankle. The extent of the damage is not yet known.
There’s another annoying international break this week, and that means that our trip to the capital to take on West Ham on Saturday will be our last Premier League game for two weeks. By the time we return we may have Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana back, so if we can claim three points against the Hammers we will be in an excellent position as we head into the festive period.
Liverpool Team News
It is unlikely that Mane will be ready to return to the fold on Saturday, even though he is expected to return to full training on Thursday.
The swelling in Gigi Wijnaldum’s ankle is substantial enough to ensure that the club doctors do not know the severity of his injury as yet, but with the game kicking off in 48 hours or so that does not bode well.
As reported by Sky Sports, Phil Coutinho also missed training on Tuesday and was not ready to return against Maribor, so even though Klopp is shy of attacking options he may just play it safe and leave the Brazilian on the bench unless he is absolutely required.
West Ham will deploy Andy Carroll as a lone striker, and so Klopp will be hoping that Dejan Lovren will be fit to return. His extra physicality will be required to help tackle the ponytailed frontman.
West Ham Form
It’s been a tough time for West Ham and especially Slaven Bilic, who was reportedly hanging onto his job by his fingernails following the 0-3 defeat to Brighton a couple of weeks ago. A stirring Carabao Cup win over Tottenham appeared to strengthen his position.
Bilic is known not to be a fan of stats, so he probably won’t give a monkey’s about this, but his side were completely overwhelmed in all metrics by a mediocre Crystal Palace side on Saturday.
The results say 2-2, but in truth the Hammers were lucky to escape from Selhurst Park with a point – even allowing for their opponents’ late equaliser. The xG count read 3.54-0.70 in Palace’s favour, which is as one-sided as you might expect the expected goals stats to ever get.
And that, remember, is against an Eagles side that has been woeful this season. That does not bode well for the Hammers come Saturday.
West Ham v Liverpool Betting Tips
At the heart of West Ham’s demise has been a complete inability to defend: they have conceded three or more goals in matches against Manchester United, Southampton Newcastle, Tottenham and Brighton this term, while Palace’s numbers – two goals in 810 Premier League minutes, and then two in a single game against West Ham – tell their own story.
Liverpool may be shy of a few attacking talents, but they are still potent going forward and the Hammers are clearly struggling defensively. That has to be the punters’ key narrative here.
The Hammers won’t be aided by a lengthy list of missing defenders. Pablo Zabaleta is suspended, while James Collins is definitely out, and Jose Fonte, Aaron Cresswell and Winston Reid are all considered touch and go. Factor in the absent Michail Antonio and you can imagine the scale of Slaven Bilic’s headache.
So, to the bets….we’re looking for a goals-based angle in Liverpool’s favour. The Reds to win at 3/4 is basic value on its own that appeals, but the Liverpool to Win & Over 2.5 Goals mark at 13/10 simply cannot be ignored.
If we’re following this angle off a cliff then we have to take a look at the Reds’ attacking players in the Anytime Goalscorer market: assuming they both play (wait for team news before taking the plunge), Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah are both eminently backable at 11/8 and 17/11 respectively.