Liverpool are the overriding favourites to win at West Ham on Wednesday night, but will an out-of-sorts Hammers side spring a shock?
Jurgen Klopp‘s men could only draw 2-2 at Shrewsbury Town on Sunday evening, squandering a two-goal lead and ensuring an FA Cup fourth round replay must now take place.
Liverpool are back in Premier League action in midweek, allowing Klopp to bring back his big guns, following a weekend rest.
The Reds sit 16 points clear of Man City with a game in hand and a win on Wednesday would be another huge step towards title glory.
West Ham sit just above the relegation zone, with issues both on and off the pitch, but David Moyes would love nothing more than to spoil Liverpool’s party.
A win for the visitors would mean they have beaten all 19 top-flight opponents this season, having not yet faced the Hammers in 2019/20.
Ahead of the game, we spoke to Kris Gonzo (@GONZObignose) from Hammers Chat to get his thoughts on the season so far and Wednesday’s vital match for both sides.
West Ham are 17th in the Premier League – how disappointed are you with the season so far?
Having spent £45 million on a striker in Sebastien Haller, everyone was hopeful that we may be able to break into the top 10.
We are a very poor team, though, and the dysfunctional midfield has been an issue for the past three seasons.
Tell us about the off-field issues at the club…
West Ham fans protested before our recent Premier League game against Everton and another is planned in the near future.
Why is it happening? I’ll attempt to explain as briefly as I can.
We were very fond of Upton Park and most did not want to leave. The board were fully aware of the fans’ feelings so promised to try and convince us the move was a good idea.
We were told that it would allow us to compete with the top six, attract world-class players and give us the financial ammunition to challenge for Champions League qualification.
Our chairman David Gold went on camera and pledged that the seats in the Olympic Stadium would be no further from the pitch at Upton Park, meaning an unrivalled matchday experience would be had.
Karren Brady trotted out the line, “world-class football in a world-class stadium,” while hurriedly changing our club crest.
The word ‘London’ was added underneath the badge to make us more attractive to the wider world and ‘West Ham Olympic Rovers’ were born.
Three years down the line we find ourselves in an athletics stadium with the fans miles from the pitch.
The one world-class player we had at Upton Park, Dimitri Payet, was replaced with Robert Snodgrass and we find ourselves looking at relegation.
Our training facilities are the worst in the league, which manifests itself in an atrocious injury record.
We are currently operating with one senior scout and all of this during a season when we have saved at least £15 million from the annual wage bill.
We have hired a manager who was released 18 months ago because he wasn’t good enough and to top it all off, he hasn’t even been allowed to bring right-hand man Stuart Pearce with him.
West Ham have been sold a dream but delivered a nightmare.
Our main asset has been sold off and we now find ourselves in a rented stadium where the landlord is losing £20 million or more every year.
We are in deep trouble.
Are you pleased with the appointment of Moyes? And was Pellegrini’s sacking fair?
Manuel Pellegrini’s sacking was not just fair but probably six weeks too late. It had been evident for some time that he had been devoid of ideas and unable to motivate the players.
David Moyes was released from his first stint at West Ham because his football was terrible.
He finished 13th but the position was inflated by two wins against teams who were already on their summer holidays at the end of the season.
We would often have games where we enjoyed less than a quarter of the possession and register no shots on target, which simply isn’t good enough.
For the board to go back a reappoint him shows just how little foresight and football knowledge they possess.
Which players have stood out most this season?
Angelo Ogbonna has been fine and Michail Antonio is always a real threat, but he is always injured.
Unfortunately, I can’t ever see a situation where he plays more than 10 games in a row for us.
Have any been particularly poor?
All of them really, but Manuel Lanzini is a major disappointment because he has the most talent.
He has played at half throttle since his return from major injury and it is easy to see that he is scared of contact.
Pablo Zabaleta is now 35 years of age and just not up to the pace of Premier League football anymore.
Haller is a talented striker and our record signing, but he is left isolated in attack and as a result has become disinterested and sulky.
How highly do you rate this Liverpool side among the best of Premier League era?
The best by some distance really.
When I was growing up, Liverpool were sweeping all before them under Bob Paisley, but this seems like the dawn of a new era.
Sure, there have been some very good sides, and for a time the partnership of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres looked to be the most potent attack around, but this team are on another level.
While players such as Xabi Alonso were world class, I never really thought that the standard was replicated throughout that team under Rafa Benitez.
What do you think is the key to their success?
Leaving the Boot Room legacy behind and creating a new standard.
Jurgen Klopp clearly has a respect and affinity for past Liverpool glories, but he is also very much his own man.
He is unburdened by the shadow of Bill Shankly, and in many respects even the Moores family, and any reverence to the past.
He’s stamped his personality, tactics and ethos on the club and for the first time in years, your club is looking forwards rather than backwards.
Who do you fear most for the Reds on Wednesday?
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino will cause most damage I would imagine, but someone like Jordan Henderson will have a field day against our midfield.
We won’t really be able to contest any area of the pitch, so any of your players will thrive.
Andy Robertson may be licking his lips at the prospect of facing a Zabaleta who is well past his sell-by date.
Where will the key battles take place?
I can’t really see there being any battles as such.
It is really a case of which area we will surrender last and I would imagine Ogbonna, Declan Rice and a half-fit Antonio will try and keep you as honest as possible.
We are a painfully slow team though with no cutting edge up front, so I would expect a very easy night for Klopp’s marauders.
We are going down and Liverpool will add the domestic crown to your European title.
Finally, hit us with your prediction…
West Ham 0-4 Liverpool.