Liverpool face West ham at Anfield today, with the game set to kick off at 1:30pm. Both sides considerably added to their squads in the summer, and both will be hoping for an extremely good season. Getting off to a good start is extremely important, but the pressure is on Liverpool to get the win today. West Ham will be hopeful of getting something from the game, but if they’re beaten narrowly and put in a good performance, they won’t be too disappointed.
Liverpool are hoping to have a crack at the Premier League title this season. Man City are still clear favourites to win it, but Liverpool now have a squad that is capable of competing. They need to challenge for the title, and they need a good start to the season to help with that.
After bringing in Alisson Becker, Naby Keita, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri this summer, and Virgil van Dijk in January, they have addressed the key areas of their team that have let them down in the past. They now look really strong in every position on the pitch, and should be beating the majority of teams that are put in front of them. They can’t win every game, but they will want to be beating the majority of teams at Anfield. The Reds were extremely strong at home last season, and there’s no reason they can’t be even stronger this season.
Today’s game presents a challenge against a strong West Ham side though. They spent a fortune in the summer and brought in a number of really good players, as well as a top quality manager in Manuel Pellegrini. West Ham will be strong this season, and will likely be a challenge for most sides. This is probably a good time to play them though, as Pellegrini will still be looking to get his ideas across to the players. It takes time to get a team playing the way you want them to play, and it will take time for a lot of their new players to settle in.
Liverpool are such an enjoyable team to watch, and I look forward to seeing them again today. Their front three, in particular, are absolutely electric. It’s going to be good seeing Mo Salah back, and it’s going to be interesting to see if he can hit the same heights as last season. I have no doubt that he’ll be amazing once again, but it would be almost impossible for him to be that good again. Thirty two goals and 10 assists – just in the Premier League – was amazing. If he can get anywhere near that again this season he’ll be delighted.
Dejan Lovren will miss out for Liverpool because of a stomach complaint. He was injured throughout the World Cup but played through the pain, which you can’t blame him for doing. Fabinho is a doubt, as he is ill. Alisson will start in goal, and we should also see a debut for Naby Keita. Shaqiri – brilliant in pre-season – is likely to start from the bench.
West Ham are full of optimism coming into this new season. They’re more confident than ever after the club went out and brought in a new manager and a host of new players in the summer. The fans were unhappy with their owners last season – which I’m not going to get into again – and their owners moved to improve their reputation by pumping some money into the club. They now look to have their best squad for years and will hope to really compete this season.
I’m not sure finishing in the top four or breaking into the top six are realistic expectations for them, and I think they’ll realise that. They’re still quite a bit behind, and I think battling with Everton for seventh – and a potential Europa League qualification spot – is the best they can hope for. If they do have a good season and finish comfortably in the top half, they can take the positives from it and try to improve their squad further next season. They can improve year after year and keep closing the gap to the top clubs.
As I mentioned above, it may take a while for them to get going. Manuel Pellegrini won’t be able to get his ideas across to the players overnight, and he’ll need time to get them playing the way he wants them to. Their new players may need a bit of time to settle in as well; the players coming from outside England in particular. We see all the time that it takes time for a player to get used to the pace of the Premier League, so if they’re not amazing immediately, you have to be patient with them. They’ll get there in the end.
The Irons have been given a really trick start to the season, as they’re off to Anfield. An easier fixture would have been welcomed, but they have to play them eventually anyway. They’re an unknown quantity at the moment, and Liverpool won’t know exactly how they’ll be playing. That could be an advantage for them, and they could come out and surprise Liverpool. A draw would be seen as a great result today, but I’m not convinced they’ll get one.
Manuel Lanzini, Andy Carroll and Winston Reid are all out with long-term problems. Edimilson Fernandes, who is reportedly about to sign for Fiorentina on loan, is also out ‘injured’.
Opinion & Prediction
Even with West Ham’s new manager and very strong looking squad, I think Liverpool will have too much for them today. I don’t think a narrow loss would be the end of the world for West Ham, once they put in a good performance and show some good signs. There’s no shame in losing to Liverpool, who will likely beat the majority of teams this season. I don’t think it’ll be easy for the Reds either, but they should get the job done.
I’m going to go with Liverpool 3-1 West Ham.
This is a game I’m looking forward to, and you can follow the action with me on Twitter. The team news will be out at 12:30pm, and you’ll get that up here as well. Enjoy what should be a good game.
Just a note on the new prediction part as well. I’m still not sure if that’s something I’m going to continue with. I don’t know how I feel about it, but we’ll see how it gets on. I’ve done three of them so far, and haven’t done too badly. I had Man Utd 2-1 Leicester and Newcastle 1-2 Spurs, which were both right, and I had Wolves 1-1 Everton, but that one actually finished 2-2. I might scrap it, but I’ll have a think about it.