Opposition Overview: Defensive injuries and shifting formations as West Ham visit Liverpool

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Liverpool will look to put disappointment behind them at the weekend, when they host West Ham. Here’s everything you need to know about the Hammers.

West Ham United

Premier League form: W-L-D-L-D-L

League position: 17th

Last win: 1-0 vs. Sunderland, October 22

Away: One win, one draw, five defeats

 

Approach

11.11.2011, Turk Telekom Arena, Istambul, TUR, UEFA EURO Qualifikation, Tuerkei (TUR) vs Kroatien (CRO), im Bild Slaven Bilic // during the UEFA EURO qualifying football match, between Turkey (TUR) and Craoatia (CRO) at Turk Telekom Arena Stadium, Istanbul, Turkey on 11/11/2011. EXPA Pictures © 2011, PhotoCredit: EXPA/ nph/ Pixsell/ Slavko Midzor..***** ATTENTION - OUT OF GER, CRO *****

What to say about the Hammers? They started the season in a pleasing, passing style, but leaked goals like nobody’s business.

Their 29 conceded is the second-worst in the Premier League this season and they shipped five to Arsenal last time out, so it’s hardly been stemmed.

Slaven Bilic has changed from a back four to a 3-4-3 variation and back again, partly as a result of injuries, particularly in defence.

With forwards Andy Carroll, Andre Ayew and Diafra Sakho they have an obvious threat of power and aerial ability in attack, but they’ve only started a combined six league games this season.

West Ham have been muddled beyond repair at times this year as a result, and their league position reflects that.

 

Danger Spots

LONDON, ENGLAND - Tuesday, February 9, 2016: Liverpool's Brad Smith in action against West Ham United's Michail Antonio during the FA Cup 4th Round Replay match at Upton Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The wide areas, without question. Whether it’s a back three with wing-backs or playing with a five-man midfield, Dimitri Payet and Michail Antonio get between the lines to pick up possession, drive at the penalty box and attack the far post when play builds on the opposite side.

Payet leads the entire Premier League for key passes per game, and both he and Antonio are in the top 20 for shots per game on average.

If Joel Matip misses out again, Liverpool could also seriously struggle in the air when defending crosses and set pieces.

(Statistics via WhoScored)

 

Liverpool Can Exploit…

LONDON, ENGLAND - Tuesday, February 9, 2016: West Ham United's goalkeeper Darren Randolph in action against Liverpool during the FA Cup 4th Round Replay match at Upton Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The rocky defence, lacking in shape and continuity, including the goalkeeper.

Darren Randolph took Adrian‘s place recently and is a good shot-stopper, but perhaps not the best when called into decision-making.

The back line will be shorn of the leadership of James Collins, and Bilic could be down to his last four fit defenders.

Mark Noble has also been in terrible form lately in midfield, and the entire team is lacking in discipline and proper mental application at times.

With 36 yellows and two reds this season, the Hammers are the most card-happy team out there.

 

Key Men

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, April 6, 2014: West Ham United's Andy Carroll in action against Liverpool during the Premiership match at Upton Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Payet over Antonio for the Hammers, for the simple reason that he’s most likely to deliver set pieces as well as the constant crosses, dribbles and shots from range that the Reds will have to worry about.

With Carroll making a scoring return to fitness last time out, those dead balls will be a worry for Liverpool, and Payet in open play is just as dangerous if his head is in the game.

For Liverpool, it’s Matip at the back they need, to restore defensive order and calm, but this has to be a game that Jordan Henderson gets hold of early and doesn’t relinquish.

Positionally, he’ll be imperative to the Reds not allowing West Ham a foothold, and his diagonals can test the full-backs too.

 

Team News

West Ham United's Aaron Cresswell

Randolph over Adrian in goal is a likely continuation, but Collins, Sam Byram and Gokhan Tore are all out injured.

Antonio and Aaron Cresswell missed the defeat to Arsenal but should be back, while Cheikhou Kouyate is also likely to return from a knock.

Possible XI: Randolph; Arbeloa, Reid, Ogbonna, Masuaku; Noble, Obiang; Antonio, Lanzini, Payet; Carroll

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