West Ham vs Liverpool is a massive game for the league leaders. But then they all are now, this is just the first of the fourteen which remain. This is the reverse of the fixture from the opening weekend, in which Liverpool battered a sorry looking Hammers side 4-0. It was Manuel Pellegrini’s first match in charge, though, and the former Manchester City manager might be able to do his old side a favour here.
After all, West Ham have beaten Manchester United and Arsenal at home this season, putting themselves alongside Wolves and Leicester as the sides from outside the top six who have the most wins against the big boys. However, the fly in the ointment is the Hammers’ treatment room, which is more crowded than the city of Liverpool will be if the Reds manage to clinch the league title.
Ouch. Several of the names listed there are in West Ham’s top performers for the season on a points-per-minute basis too, according to our algorithm, as you can see here.
Lukasz Fabianski will be a huge miss if he’s unavailable too. One flaw with our algorithm is that it tends to underrate the contribution of goalkeepers. You’ll never see a shot stopper at the top end of a club’s player leader board.
But when you compare ‘keepers against each other, the Pole in West Ham’s goal shows himself to be one of the top men in the division this season.
Of course, the number of shots on target the keepers face has to be relevant too, as is the quality of the chances. Even so, West Ham have only conceded seven shots on target more than Manchester United, for instance, and only roughly four expected goals more, yet there’s no sign here of David de Gea.
As for Liverpool, while they don’t have anywhere near as many injuries, those that they do have are in largely the same position: right-back. Jürgen Klopp has already deployed five different players there this season. That doesn’t include Fabinho either, who has almost 100 appearances in the position in his career, though none yet for Liverpool.
While Klopp would have probably used James Milner at right full-back against Leicester had he not been suspended, at least he will be well rested and should take the berth against the Hammers.
West Ham will no doubt target the stand in right-back, presumably with Felipe Anderson. People love to rush to make decisive conclusions on the success of transfers, but few would argue the Brazilian was one of the best from last summer’s crop of Premier League purchases.
However, with the visitors likely to dominate the ball – they’ve only had below 50% possession five times in the league this season, and just once against a side from outside the big six – having someone of Milner’s ability going forward will help make up for the absence of Trent Alexander-Arnold.
The veteran midfielder has started three games for Liverpool at right-back this season, against Bournemouth, Wolves and Crystal Palace. In those matches, he picked up the third-most attack points for the Reds, with his key contribution essentially setting up Mohamed Salah’s second goal against the Eagles. Here’s his dashboard for those games. A flick of the ‘only important actions’ button reveals just how well Milner covered his flank.
Expected goal data suggests that this match will finish in a 2-0 Liverpool win, as it tends to do whenever they face a side outside the top six. Mark Lawrenson is human xG; who knew?
But the Reds should be wary; they only have one clean sheet in their last five league matches, and West Ham have only failed to score in one of the last nine meetings in east London. The battle between Anderson and Milner may prove to be decisive in determining the outcome of this match.