Liverpool return to action at Anfield this weekend to take on Slaven Bilic’s West Ham United. Here, Ben Twelves looks at selection options.
After heading back to Merseyside with a well-earned point from Monday’s Emirates Stadium clash with Arsenal, Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool look to continue their positive start to the season on Saturday against West Ham United.
The fixture hands Rodgers’ side the perfect chance to add to their solid opening of seven points from a possible nine, and position themselves strongly for the season ahead.
A quick start has proven to be of paramount importance in years in which the Reds have gone on to enjoy a successful league campaign.
Only goals were missing from a much-improved display in Monday’s draw – a dominant performance which saw Liverpool impress both in attack and defensively.
Another strong showing will be required in order to overcome Slaven Bilic’s West Ham side, who have already proved their capability of springing a surprise with an eye-catching win at Arsenal.
Rodgers: "West Ham at home will be our toughest game of the four. They had an excellent result away (at Arsenal)."
— James Pearce (@JamesPearceLFC) August 28, 2015
With the chance to go into the first disruptive international break with a very pleasing 10 points from four matches, it’s vital the Reds don’t undo their good work of the first three games against the Hammers – who haven’t tasted victory at Anfield since 1963 – and place themselves in the best possible position for the upcoming trip to Old Trafford.
Rodgers confirmed in his pre-match press-conference that little has changed over the squad available to pick from for Saturday’s game.
Jon Flanagan, Joe Allen and Daniel Sturridge are all still out – with the striker targeting the looming trip to Manchester United as his comeback game – while captain Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana are doubts again meaning both could miss out for the second game running.
With little change over those available and following a promising beginning to the campaign, the Liverpool boss could name an unchanged XI for the clash.
Rodgers confirms there are no injury updates from the squad that faced Arsenal on Monday. Henderson and Lallana still doubts.
— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) August 28, 2015
A third successive clean sheet gives Rodgers no reason to alter a performing back four, though Mamadou Sakho will be hopeful of game time soon having been left out of the France squad due to a lack of match action – something that could influence his decision over whether to accept the new five-year contract offered.
After impressing with a combative performance protecting his new and improved back line, Lucas Leiva will be hopeful of retaining his place in defensive midfield where he’s likely to play in support of Emre Can and stand-in skipper James Milner.
With Lallana a doubt and Jordon Ibe struggling for form, Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Christian Benteke are likely to continue the dangerous attacking setup that caused all manner of problems at the Emirates
Firmino is in line to make his first Anfield start.
The Reds turned in a highly impressive display on Monday, and the promising performance gives little reason for the Liverpool boss to change his selection.
After a strong start, consistency could prove vital to Rodgers’ men building on their sharp opening to the new campaign – especially for the new arrivals who have slotted in effortlessly – and currently, there’s no need for Rodgers to alter the XI.
It’s highly likely – with results and performances positive – that Liverpool will line up unchanged at Anfield therefore.
With the same XI and system in operation again, the Reds could start looking like this against the Hammers:
The clash presents Rodgers’ side with a huge chance to continue their good work to date, with the opportunity to record a second home win in as many Anfield clashes.
The Reds leader spoke of the importance of home form in order for his side to have a good season in his press conference, and with a winnable game in front of them, Rodgers could opt to field a more attacking system – in the form of two striking options.
Rodgers: "If you want to be fighting at the top end of the table your home form is vital."
— James Pearce (@JamesPearceLFC) August 28, 2015
Switching to a 4-4-2 diamond midfield could be an option therefore, with the chance to put the visitors on the back foot from the off, with two centre-forwards ahead of a combative and creative midfield setup.
Personnel should remain the same despite the potential for a system switch with Lucas resuming his defensive-midfield duties behind the engine room of Milner and Can, and Coutinho at the tip of the diamond behind Firmino and Benteke – with Divock Origi and Danny Ings again in reserve.
That alteration to shape could see Rodgers’ men take to the Anfield surface looking like this come 3pm kick-off time:
It’s been a hugely promising start to the league campaign, and while a tough game awaits against Bilic’s side, the Reds must make sure a good start is made even better with another three points on Saturday afternoon.