With roughly one-third of the season left to play, one could argue that we are into the “run-in” phase of the Premier League, and that realisation won’t be lost on Liverpool as they make the trip south to face West Ham this evening. Jurgen Klopp’s title hopefuls will not be ignorant of the fact that the mirror fixture to this game saw them take first place in the league after the opening weekend – and nor will the Hammers have forgotten that defeat, which set in chain a series of four losses in their first four games of the season.
No longer rock bottom in the league – and probably safe from relegation, especially if we’re realistic and have already said our goodbyes to Fulham and Huddersfield – the East London side are currently reliving those opening few weeks, having recently lost to Wolves and Bournemouth in much the same lamentable fashion as they were defeated by the same sides in the first month of the season. It’d be either brave or foolhardy (probably the latter) to pick a home win in this game, but could some nerves play a part in the occasion for the visiting Reds?
A Sense Of Four-boding For The Hosts
Here’s a stat that West Ham fans will be tired of hearing by the time kick-off rolls around: the last four times these sides have met, Liverpool have scored four goals. Sometimes that attacking salvo has been without reply. Sometimes the Hammers have managed a cheering, yet ultimately futile, consolation goal, but on all four occasions they have been pasted out of sight by Klopp’s side. What we’re saying is, there are probably teams they’d rather be facing off the back of the series of results they’ve just had.
This evening can go either one of two ways: Resolve stiffened by the horrified reaction of boss Manuel Pellegrini to their recent moribund performance levels, West Ham raise their game and expose some nerves in a Liverpool side within sniffing distance of a first league title since 1990. Alternatively, they concede several goals again and watch yet another team making off gratefully with the three points. We very much suspect the latter, and see Liverpool settling their nerves with an early goal. Egyptian striker Mo Salah is currently available at boosted odds of 5/1 with Ladbrokes to score in the first 15 minutes. Those odds seem tempting.
Reds Seek To Get The Job Done
Previous incarnations of the Liverpool side – even before Klopp’s arrival – have come in for some criticism over a sense that sometimes they’d rather draw a game 4-4 than win it 1-0. The German himself may have taken this criticism to heart, as he has been heard more than once this season to say that while entertaining the fans is nice, getting three points is more important.
Therefore, we should not be surprised if the Reds turn up, put in a functional performance, and waltz off with the points – leaving football aesthetes to bemoan the absence of Keystone Cops defending. There’s a decent chance that Liverpool will win without humiliating their opponents here, which may make it worth backing West Ham (+2) at Genting, with odds of ⅚, to win on the Handicap market. They won’t pick up any points for it, but it would be progress of a sort compared with recent showings.
West Ham No Threat To The Barn Doors Of England
The last two league games for West Ham have both ended in defeat, but more troubling for Hammers fans will be the fact that these results have been one-sided – 3-0 at Wolves and 2-0 at Bournemouth. Now, they come up against the Premier League’s tightest defence; Liverpool have conceded just 14 goals all season, six fewer than the next stingiest. With Virgil van Dijk seemingly over the bout of illness that affected his performance against Leicester in a 1-1 draw last time out, only the more optimistic Hammers fans will expect their frequently underperforming attack to trouble the scorers here.
In that light, we believe that BetBright’s 17/20 on “No” in the Both Teams To Score market represents Bet of the Day value. We’d expect Liverpool to get on the board, possibly early, given that their wide attackers Salah and Sadio Mane can score at any moment. However, it’s very easy to see the hosts continuing their anaemic league form in front of goal, particularly if attacking talisman Marko Arnautovic misses out here with bruising to his right foot. West Ham failed to land a single shot on target in losing 3-0 to Wolves; Liverpool could play here without a goalkeeper and still have a chance at winning.
Bet of the Day
No on BTTS (BetBright 17/20); West Ham +2 (Genting, ⅚); Salah scores in first 15 (5/1, Ladbrokes)