Liverpool’s FA Cup win over Norwich City on Wednesday threatened to turn into a footballing version of the hare and tortoise fable. The Reds romped into a two-goal lead thanks to a brace of goals from Takumi Minamino, and given Norwich’s poor form and lowly status in the Premier League it seemed impossible for them to come back from that deficit.
And as Liverpool pushed to extend their cushion but failed to find a breakthrough, Lukas Rupp stole clear to fire home completely against the run of play and set up a final 20 minutes that was more fraught than it really needed to be from Jurgen Klopp’s perspective.
In the end, the Reds were able to hold on, although it was a late scare that the manager could have done without.
Afterwards, Klopp described the performance of Minamino as ‘exceptional’ and ‘top class’, and how blessed Liverpool are now in wide areas with the Japanese star alongside the likes of Salah, Mane, Jota and new recruit Luis Diaz.
It was another fringe player, Divock Origi, that set the ball rolling, with the Belgian doing well to set up Minamino for the opener after 27 minutes, while the Japanese star’s second 12 minutes later was much to do with the generous non-marking of Norwich’s defence as it was his own splendid finish.
Liverpool pushed hard to increase their lead, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain striking the post with a shot from the edge of the area and Jota missing a header that he might normally have scored with.
The Canaries had a late chance of their own when Jonathan Rowe forced a sharp save from Alisson, who was deputising for normal cup goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher following his exploits last Sunday.
The final whistle blew, much to Klopp’s relief you expect, and now he can begin plotting Liverpool’s assault on a second domestic trophy this term. But first, there’s Premier League matters to attend to, with West Ham the next visitors to Anfield on Saturday evening.
Liverpool Team News
Unsurprisingly, Klopp named a rotated line-up for Wednesday’s game, and that should ensure the Reds are sharp and at full strength – for the most part – against the Hammers.
Thiago was left in floods of tears after injuring a thigh during the warm up for the EFL Cup final, and he isn’t expected to return until next weekend at the earliest.
Curtis Jones, who had an excellent first half against Norwich, suffered a thigh injury of his own and was substituted during the break. Klopp has since said he doesn’t think it’s a ‘real’ injury, and the midfielder’s withdrawal was a precautionary measure.
And Bobby Firmino, of course, is expected to be sidelined for the foreseeable future with a groin injury.
Otherwise, it’s a case of Klopp slotting his first-choice players back into the side. Alexander-Arnold, Robertson, Matip and Van Dijk will return in defence, while Fabinho and Naby Keita could resume in midfield alongside Jordan Henderson, who was subbed off after an hour against Norwich.
In attack, there’s decisions to be made on the balance of the side, but it’s possible that Sadio Mane will be restored to the left flank with Salah right and Jota through the middle.
West Ham Form
West Ham remain in and amongst the race for the fourth and final Champions League place in the Premier League, and that’s down to David Moyes ringing every last ounce of ability out of his players.
They’re currently on a four-game unbeaten run, although it should be said three of those outings were against bottom half sides and the fourth was against a rather goal-shy Wolves outfit.
That said, the Hammers have been pretty good against ‘big six’ sides this term, and of course they downed Liverpool 3-2 in the reverse fixture back in November.
Liverpool vs West Ham Betting Tips
The bookmakers have Liverpool as their 1/3 favourites for this game, and that looks plenty short given that the Hammers are no pushovers – they’ve avoided defeat in 19/27 outings this term.
So, as we tend to do in these situations, we examine the Asian handicap market – we can back the Hammers with a +1.50 line at even money, which is handy as it still allows for a Liverpool win and for us to profit.
Whenever Klopp and Moyes have met in this fixture, goals have tended to flow – the last five meetings have witnessed a total of 19 goals, with Over 2.5 Goals landing in four of them. We’ll be taking Over 2.5 & Both Teams to Score here at 21/20.