Liverpool have had an impressive summer with a mix of good pre-season results and excellent transfer business as have West Ham. Liverpool will go into the match with high expectations and as clear favourites after their 4-1 victory over the Hammers in this fixture last season. However, a breath of fresh air and an underdog mentality could lead to a big upset on Liverpool’s opening day.
Liverpool have improved in key positions this summer but so have West Ham so we’re likely to see some interesting battles across the park. The hosts have signed Alisson Becker, Xherdan Shaqiri, Fabinho Tavares and Naby Keita but it’s just the former and the latter who are likely to start. West Ham have invested heavily into Felipe Anderson, Andriy Yarmalenko, Issa Diop and Lukasz Fabianski but those aren’t the only ones. I predict the lineups to be as follows:
Liverpool: Alisson, Robertson, Van Dijk, Gomez, Alexander-Arnold, Keita, Wijnaldum, Milner (C), Mane, Salah, Firmino
West Ham: Fabianksi, Creswell, Ogbonna, Diop, Fredericks, Rice, Wilshere, Noble (C), Anderson, Yarmalenko, Arnautovic
Position by Position
Both teams will have their keepers making competitive debuts with Alisson already showing his talent in pre-season games. Fabianski will have a point to prove after going down with Swansea last season and will be fighting for his position as the first keeper all season. Robertson who was in good form towards the tail end of last season will be up against new signing Andriy Yarmalenko with youngster Alexander-Arnold likely to take on Anderson on the left side of a West Ham front three. Joe Gomez will battle for full fitness but will be reassured by the presence of Van Dijk as they look to keep West Ham man of the moment, Arnautovic, at bay. At the other end, an unfamiliar back five consisting of three new signings will have their work cut out for them as they go up against the deadly trio of Salah, Mane and Firmino desperate to keep going from where they left off.
The midfield battle will be an interesting one with Rice moving up to a midfield role after 20 games as a centre-back last season and likely to be against Naby Keita driving forward to link up with Liverpool’s front three. Mark Noble and Jack Wilshere will play alongside each other comfortably and probably have the evenest matchup of the 22 players up against the slightly injured James Milner and in-form, Georginio Wijnaldum.
If you were to make a combined 11 of these two teams, it’s hard to see many West Ham players featuring in the Liverpool lineup but perhaps Liverpool could do with a centre-back with an unfortunately timed defensive injury crisis.
Face of Football
Jurgen Klopp won’t be approaching the game any differently to how he did last season. He’ll demand his players to play with high intensity and get off to a quick start which they do so successfully in the previous campaign. Mohamed Salah has set the bar high for himself and a player of his mentality will be eager to somehow improve on his record-breaking 32 goal season. Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino will link up with the Egyptian and if pre-season games are anything to go by, the three haven’t lost their chemistry. In midfield, Klopp will want high pressing from Naby Keita and James Milner with Wijnaldum expected to take the number 6 role that would usually be occupied by Jordan Henderson or Fabinho but both will struggle for match fitness. In defence, they’ll need to keep it tight and ensure the midfield tracks back to deal with a much-improved attacking threat from West Ham. Although, Alisson Becker will offer steady reassurance if the ball does get behind the defensive line. If things don’t go to plan, Xherdan Shaqiri and Daniel Sturridge can come off the bench to change the game and their unique playing styles will cause mayhem in the West Ham defence.
Manuel Pellegrini will be familiar with the pressure of any Premier League opener but he’ll be determined to ensure he delivers a good start for his travelling fans. West Ham used a three at the back system last season with Creswell and Rice covering as centre-backs throughout the season with numerous injuries for key defenders. A new goalkeeper will reassure the defence but Diop and Fredericks will need to quickly adapt to Premier League life if they are to handle the forward line of Liverpool. All three of West Ham’s midfielders will need to drop deep and at times even form a defensive block when Liverpool are on the front foot but they’ll need to get the ball wide to Anderson and Yarmalenko on the counter who will offer pace and creativity on the wings. Arnautovic will be their target and a massive threat to Liverpool’s clean sheet hopes so he’ll be heavily marked and need to take his chances. Jack Wilshere and Mark Noble will need to lead the team by example and work together to keep their newly assembled side focused and disciplined for the whole game.
Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 West Ham (Firmino, Salah, Wijnaldum; Anderson)
Liverpool win: 75%, Draw: 15%, West Ham win: 10%
Liverpool and West Ham fans, respond to these predictions. Let us know what you think ahead of your club’s Premier League opener…Who will score first? Will West Ham go for it? Where do you see your side finishing this season? Share your thoughts and views ahead of tomorrow’s 13:30 KO by tweeting @AllOutFootball_ using #AOF.