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How Liverpool Could Line Up Against West Ham

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Liverpool head to the East End on Sunday where they will be looking to maintain their position at the top of the Premier League. Ben Twelves discusses how Brendan Rodgers’ team could line-up for the clash.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 7, 2013: Liverpool's Luis Suarez and West Ham United's James Collins during the Premiership match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

If there were any lingering doubts over the credibility of Liverpool’s title challenge, they were dismissed in the 4-0 demolition of Tottenham at Anfield last Sunday. It was a resounding win that catapulted Brendan Rodgers’ side to the summit of the Premier League with only six games left to play and one that edged the dream that small bit closer to reality, as the Kop acknowledged with a hair-raising roar at the end of the game.

Next up for Liverpool is a trip to Upton Park where they take on West Ham United and the Reds arrive in East London in sensational form having won eight straight league games. The incredible run has fired Liverpool into a position that not even the most die-hard supporter could have predicted they’d be in after 32 league games, but with Premier League success now firmly within sight, the objective is very simple for the remainder of the season.

Something that is often asked of title chasing teams is whether they ‘know how to win’. Judging by the recent performances against Sunderland and Cardiff, where emerging with maximum points wasn’t as straightforward as we had come to expect, it looks as if Liverpool do. A ground out victory over the Black Cats was followed by the dismantlement of Spurs, illustrating perfectly that Rodgers’ side can do both.

This weekend’s fixture with West Ham, who recorded a 2-1 away win against Sunderland on Monday night, is sure to be a physical encounter and another tough test for the Reds on the road to securing the title, and Rodgers’ men may just need to show once again that they can win ugly.

The Big Questions

Sunday’s win against Spurs saw Joe Allen dropped to the bench and a recall for the outstanding Raheem Sterling. The change added more pace, aggression and tenacity in the final third to compliment the intricate and ruthless attacking play, and Rodgers was rewarded for his decision as he watched his side take their league goal tally to a remarkable 88 from just 32 games.

A challenging match at Upton Park  awaits and the only real but sizeable question marks for the manager continue to be over which one of Sterling, Coutinho or Allen starts the match amongst the substitutes. There are cases for each one to be included in the starting eleven respectively and it is certainly a tough decision for the manager.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 23, 2014: Liverpool's Raheem Sterling is replaced by substitute Joe Allen during the Premiership match against Swansea City at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)
Raheem Sterling is replaced by substitute Joe Allen. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Having just won so convincingly there seems little reason (injuries permitting) to change the starting team. But West Ham could cause problems to an extent that may require Allen to come in to the side to offer a little more midfield bite and solidity. The counter to recalling the Welshman is that it could be wise to stick with both Coutinho and Sterling with Suarez and Sturridge to take the game to the Hammers and put them to the sword.

Not forgetting the rest of the squad for one moment but it looks as if Mamadou Sakho and Lucas Leiva are likely to have to make do with a place on the bench as there seems to be no reason to disrupt the current back four, who have kept three clean sheets this month and Steven Gerrard continuing to impress in his deep-lying controller role.

The Options

If Rodgers does choose to the keep faith with the team that smashed Spurs, as most including myself would assume happens, Liverpool will line up like this at Upton Park:

photo (1)

The reintroduction of Joe Allen would likely see one of Sterling or Coutinho make way and his return to the side could also prompt a slight change of shape to the team, back to the diamond formation that’s been used in recent fixtures. Having Coutinho start at the top of the diamond and Sterling as an impact player just like away at Southampton could be an alternative and with this is mind, Liverpool could shape up like so:

diamond

Another possibility for Rodgers would be to drop Coutinho back to the subs bench, bringing in Allen and leaving Sterling to link with Sturridge and Suarez as a three man attack. That would see Liverpool look like this come 4pm Sunday afternoon:

no countinho

The aim of the game is now extremely straightforward for Liverpool. Win your games and you will win the league. It is of course far easier said than done and the Reds will have to be at their best again on Sunday to ensure that they return to Merseyside with another three points and still sat top of the Premier League by the time they welcome Manchester City to Anfield in what is shaping up to be a title deciding game.

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