Sunday, December 09, 2012

Match Preview: West Ham vs Liverpool

West Ham United will be aiming to maintain their impressive return to the Premier League on Sunday against a Liverpool side looking to prove they can cope without Luis Suarez.

Sam Allardyce's side have collected 22 points from their opening 15 games since winning promotion and recorded an excellent 3-1 home victory over Chelsea last weekend.

Only Arsenal have beaten West Ham at Upton Park this season and the hosts will be hoping to repeat the 3-1 victory over Liverpool in the club's last meeting in East London.

Scott Parker and Demba Ba were two of the goalscorers that day, but have since moved on, while Liverpool's last win at West Ham was a 3-2 success back in September 2009 which was secured by the now departed Fernando Torres and Dirk Kuyt.

Carlton Cole, who scored the last time the two clubs met, will be given the chance to lead the line in the absence of Andy Carroll, who is on loan from Liverpool, but would have been ineligible to play irrespective of his current injury.

Liverpool have lost just once in 10 Premier League games, but have still only won once on their travels this term and sit 11th in the table ahead of the weekend's program.

A Suarez hat-trick earned that solitary away triumph at Norwich, but the Uruguayan, who has scored over half of the Reds' league goals, is missing through suspension.

West Ham boss Allardyce will welcome Yossi Benayoun back into his squad to face Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday.

The former Reds midfielder missed the Hammers' 3-1 win over Chelsea as he was ineligible to appear against his parent club.

Andy Carroll (knee) could be missing for two months but would not have been able to feature against Liverpool due to the terms of his loan, whilst Ricardo Vaz Te (shoulder), Alou Diarra (thigh) and Jack Collison (knee) are all definitely out.

Liverpool striker Suarez is suspended for Sunday's trip to West Ham after accumulating five bookings.

Manager Brendan Rodgers has played midfielder Jonjo Shelvey in a 'false nine' position before and could do so again as a stop-gap with no other senior strikers fit.

Captain Steven Gerrard, left out of the Europa League squad which beat Udinese in Italy because of illness, will be restored at Upton Park as will the rested Daniel Agger and Lucas Leiva.

Stevie Out To Sink Hammers Again

In the absence of Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard will be looking to continue his superb scoring record for Liverpool against West Ham on Sunday.

The Kop skipper has fired seven goals in 17 appearances against the Hammers. Only John Toshack (10), Ian Rush and Roger Hunt (eight each) have scored more for the Reds against the Londoners.

The Reds captain has scored more goals (seven) against West Ham No.1 Jussi Jaaskelainen than against any other goalkeeper he has faced, with each of them coming during the 'keeper's time at Bolton.

The sides last met in the 2010-11 season, with Liverpool winning 3-0 at Anfield with goals from Glen Johnson, Dirk Kuyt (pen) and Maxi in the opening 38 minutes.

The Hammers won the return at Upton Park 3-1. Scott Parker and Demba Ba gave the Hammers a first-half lead before Glen Johnson pulled one back on 84 minutes. Carlton Cole wrapped up the victory in injury time.

The Hammers were relegated at the end of that campaign with seven wins - their lowest Premier League tally.

In the Premier League, Liverpool have won 19 of the 32 meetings but have lost six with seven draws, while at Upton Park the Reds have won seven and lost six of 16 Premier League games.

Liverpool have won five of the last seven clashes at Upton Park, scoring 14 goals and conceding eight and have been beaten in just two of their last nine visits.

Three Liverpool players have scored hat-tricks for Liverpool at Upton Park - Roger Hunt in 1965, John Toshack (1976) and Michael Robinson (1983).

The last Reds player to score three against the Hammers was Fernando Torres at Anfield in March 2008.

Liverpool's biggest wins on this ground came in September 1965 and January 1976 when they won 4-0.

Joe Cole played for the Hammers on 149 occasions, scoring 13 times, between 1998 and 2003.

Glen Johnson began his career at Upton Park, making 15 appearances before his two-year spell at the club ended in 2003.

Johnson's last three league goals for the Reds have come against London opposition - his last two away from Anfield being scored at Chelsea and West Ham. He has scored in each of his last two appearances against the Hammers.

Jamie Carragher made his league debut for Liverpool against West Ham at Anfield in January 1997.

Daniel Agger scored his first Liverpool goal against West Ham in a 2-1 win at Anfield in 2006.

Jose Enrique played his first league game in English football against West Ham, with his Newcastle team winning 3-1 in September 2007.

Since his return from injury Pepe Reina has kept three clean sheets in four league games.

Liverpool have kept one clean sheet in their last eight league games away from home but a win on Sunday will see them record back-to-back league wins for the first time this season.

Last season the Hammers were promoted via the play-offs. They beat Cardiff 5-0 on aggregate before overcoming Blackpool 2-1 in the final at Wembley. Ricardo Vaz Te scored an 87th-minute winner after Carlton Cole had earlier given the Hammers the lead.

West Ham have won only two of the last 18 league meetings home and away but have lost only seven of their 37 league games during this calendar year.

Their only home defeat saw them lose 3-1 to Arsenal two months ago.

Their last fixture saw them beat Chelsea 3-1, coming from behind with goals from Carlton Cole, Mohamed Diame and Modibo Maiga.

Victory will take Liverpool above the Hammers in the table. The teams have almost identical goals for/against totals this season. Both teams have scored 19 league goals, while the Hammers have conceded 17 - one less than the Reds.

Sam Allardyce has won three of his 17 league meetings with the Reds as a manager - all three with Bolton. He never won against Liverpool in his time at Newcastle or Blackburn.

Shelvey Ready For Striker Role

Jonjo Shelvey admits he is happy to fill the boots of suspended Luis Suarez ahead of Liverpool's clash at West Ham on Sunday.

The Reds star is determined to do his best to adapt to an unfamiliar position for the sake of the team as they travel to the Boleyn Ground without the Uruguayan.

But the 20-year-old Essex boy insists he is ready for the challenge, despite only having experienced playing in the role against Young Boys in the Europa League earlier this season, albeit, Shelvey made an entertaining cameo by bagging a brace.

He said: "Luis is a world-class striker so everything he touches goes in.

"I played there against Young Boys and thought I did all right. I did a job for the team.

"It is difficult to adjust because you have your back to your opponent all the time, whereas in midfield you can see in front of you, so it is difficult in that respect.

"It is a different type of fitness as well, but I'll be ready for it.

"You have to be aware of where other players are each side of you and in that respect I think I have got to do some work.

"But you play where you are told and it is always an honour to play.

"I'm excited because it is the team I supported but it is not an easy player's boots to fill.

"West Ham are a good team and a different type to play against as they are a bit more direct that others in the Premier League."

Shelvey also believes Liverpool is gradually moving towards a style of play which will bring more goals from every area of the pitch under manager Brendan Rodgers.

And with the likes of defender Daniel Agger and midfielder Jordan Henderson proving to be the match-winners in their last two matches - against Southampton and Udinese - Shelvey reckons other players are now starting to share the burden with Suarez.

"In any team, goals have to come from all angles of the team, and I think they will," said Shelvey, who played for West Ham's youth team having grown up in Romford as a boyhood fan.

"Daniel scored on Saturday and Hendo scored on Thursday, so they are starting to come and the more and more we play together the more it will happen.

"You don't go out there purposely not trying to score. If you get a chance you are going to try to score but obviously sometimes it doesn't happen."

Skrtel Relishing Cole Test

Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel is not fazed by the physical threat of West Ham ahead of Sunday's trip to Upton Park.

The Hammers will be without Skrtel's on-loan Reds team-mate Andy Carroll, who is out for two months with a knee injury, but Carlton Cole will provide a similar presence up front.

Cole's confidence was boosted when he netted his first goal of the season against Chelsea last weekend, but Skrtel believes he can keep the big forward quiet on Sunday.

"For me personally it is better if they play with a big striker because that is what I like," Skrtel. "I am more comfortable than playing against smaller guys.

"But it is no different who is playing, whether it was Andy or Carlton Cole. They are all dangerous and we have to focus and be careful for 90 minutes and don't let them score.

"I am looking forward to it and I'll try to do my best to make sure they don't. It is going to be a difficult game because it is going to be physical and we have to be ready for that.

"We have to play our game and try to beat them and I hope the quality is on our side and we can beat them.

"For me as a defender, but also for the whole team it is good when we don't concede a goal because that is where we start from.

"If you don't concede a goal you have a good chance of winning the game and I think we have tightened up in recent weeks."

Liverpool Plot £5m Swoop For Samaras

Liverpool are planning to make a £5million swoop for Celtic striker Georgios Samaras.

The Greece international has impressed during the Scottish side's run to the last 16 of the Champions League, scoring against Barcelona, Benfica and Spartak Moscow.

And Anfield boss Brendan Rodgers sees him as the solution to his attacking problems, with only Luis Suarez proving potent up front.

Samaras had a spell with Manchester City earlier in his career but scored just 12 goals in 65 appearances.

He is under contract at Celtic until 2014 but is eager to prove himself in the Premier League, according to The Sun.

Rodgers is also expected to launch a January bid for Chelsea frontman Daniel Sturridge.

The ex-Swansea boss is so stretched for strikers that Jonjo Shelvey will lead the line against West Ham on Sunday.

Rodgers has been a huge advocate of the 20-year-old since he became Liverpool manager and is adamant that his side have enough threat to cope with the enforced absence of Suarez.

‘I saw an interesting stat that we have had 15 different goalscorers this season,’ said Rodgers, who will also be able to call on Steven Gerrard after he missed the midweek trip to Italy with sickness.

‘We are only three goalscorers behind the record for the club in a season, which is 18. There are goals there. Jonjo is an attack-minded player, he has an instinct for a goal, and we have worked that way before.’

Suarez Cools Juventus Move Talk

Striker Luis Suarez may be propping Liverpool up this season but he says that talk of jumping ship for Italian giants Juventus in January is far from his thinking.

In Suarez's 15 starts in the Premier League this season he has scored 10 times, more than half of all Liverpool's 19 league goals.

Going into Sunday's match with West Ham, for which the Uruguayan is suspended, the Reds sit 11th whereas Juventus occupy top spot in Serie A and are in the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Despite the roller coaster Suarez has ridden in the past year, involving a race row with Manchester United's Patrice Evra, he says he is happy at Liverpool, a club he believes most players would want to stay at.

"Serie A is very nice and a competitive league with great teams and great players," Suarez told Mediaset.

"I know [about the interest from Juventus] because it's been talked about quite a lot and I always read a lot of stories in the newspapers.

"But I'm very happy at Liverpool. It is a club where many people would like to play."

Borini Sets Sights On Return

Liverpool striker Fabio Borini wants to help fire the club to Europa League success when he returns from foot surgery.

Borini, 21, has been unavailable since breaking a bone in his foot in mid-October but is hoping to resume training at Liverpool's Melwood base just after Christmas.

The former Roma man was at Stadio Friuli to see his team-mates qualify for the Europa League knockout stages by beating Udinese 1-0 on Thursday, and he is aiming to ensure he can play his part when the competition resumes in February.

"I'm quite good now - working hard every day," he told Liverpool's official website. "The foot is very good and on Monday I see the surgeon to sort out the screws and see if they are taken out or not. On December 26, I'll be back in Liverpool.

"I feel strong. I'm working a lot on the other muscles. I'll start working on my ankle and foot, which is better, and my calf is a lot better."

Jordan Henderson has vowed to improve his scoring record after grabbing the goal that extended the club's Europa League campaign.

The England Under-21 captain has largely been restricted to playing in cup competitions since Rodgers replaced Kenny Dalglish as manager during the summer.

However, Henderson, signed from Sunderland for £16 million in 2011, is hoping there will be better things to come.

"I have missed a few good chances in games so it was nice to put one away, and I hope I can keep scoring from now on," he said. "I have always tried to improve my goalscoring.

"Even when I've been getting good chances of late I've not put them away, so I started to think that I needed to score. I've managed to do that, so I'm happy. You have to keep working hard, keep doing the things you have been doing and it will pay off in the end."

Henderson reckons Liverpool will be a stronger side when the Europa League resumes in February, although his immediate focus is Sunday's Premier League trip to West Ham.

"I think we are going from strength to strength every week and we are improving," he said. "It is important for Liverpool to be involved in the knockout stages of European competition.

"When February comes, we will have improved a hell of a lot and we can kick on from there but our main focus now is Sunday against West Ham. We hope the win will give everyone confidence going into that game."

Rodgers Won’t Pay Over The Odds For Sterling

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has admitted that he will not pay over the odds for Raheem Sterling now that he has turned 18.

Premier League rules mean that players cannot sign for more than three seasons before their 18th birthday and Rodgers pointed to the player that he has value but has not achieved anything.

“I don’t want the club or the kid being affected by over-the-odds demands,” he told The Telegraph.

"I think there’s a value I see in a young player that hasn’t achieved anything. All the figures that get bandied about for kids these days can destroy them. I’m in the business of trying to help nurture these kids, and money distorts the reality. It’s just one of these things that will get done. I’m confident that it will do.

“There’s still 18 months left [on his current deal]. He’s a young kid and we just want to make sure that everything’s right for him to be nurtured. With young players’ contracts get handed out left, right and centre to a kid who’s not done anything, getting a four-year deal on decent money, and then clubs wonder why in two or three years it’s gone wrong.”

Gerrard Heads FA Shortlist

Captain Steven Gerrard leads a five-man shortlist for the 2012 England Player of the Year award.

Gerrard is nominated alongside Liverpool team-mate Glen Johnson, Chelsea's Ashley Cole, Manchester City's Joe Hart and Manchester United's Danny Welbeck.

The five were selected by a panel of experts from football and the media with the fans now invited to vote for the overall winner of the award.

Gerrard was appointed as England captain earlier in the year after Roy Hodgson took over as manager and the Liverpool midfielder went on to help the Three Lions to the quarter finals of the European Championships.

The 32-year-old, who has won the award previously, missed just two of England's 13 internationals this year and joined an elite group when he won his 100th England cap against Sweden.
Cole, who missed a penalty in the shoot-out defeat to Italy in the summer, will be hoping to win the award for the second time having won it in 2010.

Hart, 25, kept five clean sheets in 11 matches for his country this season as he became one of England's most important players.

At the other end of the pitch, United youngster Welbeck scored five goals in 11 matches, including a delightful flick against Sweden during the European Championships.

Johnson, 28, completes the shortlist having contributed to four clean sheets in his nine appearances for England this year.

Monarch Airlines Apologizes For Delay

Monarch Airline bosses apologized to Liverpool FC after the first team was left stranded in Italy.

The Reds spent the night in a hotel after their plane was grounded due to a technical fault.

The team headed straight for Trieste Airport after their 1-0 victory over Udinese in the Europa League on Thursday night and was due to arrive at John Lennon airport at about 1am on Friday.

But as the chartered Monarch flight was taxiing along the runway ready for take-off, the plane’s captain announced he would have to turn back due to a warning light in the cockpit.

A spokeswoman for the airline said the flight was abandoned because a part for the faulty plane needed to be sent from the UK.

She added: “We operated a charter flight on behalf of tour operator Thomas Cook Sport for Liverpool FC.

“On push back the aircraft developed a technical fault. After a full investigation by a Monarch engineer on board, a spare part was required from the UK.

“Both Monarch Airlines and Thomas Cook Sport have been in discussion with Liverpool FC to find the best solution for the team and a rescue aircraft was positioned to Trieste.

“Monarch would like to apologize to Liverpool FC and thank them for their co-operation.”

The team finally touched down on home soil at about 3.30pm on Friday.