Given normal circumstances – it should be business as usual for Liverpool tonight away to West Ham at 8pm – but these aren’t normal circumstances.
A jittery draw with Leicester last week for the Reds and Manchester City finally realising that they need to start winning games again, has seen a seven-point lead over City on Boxing Day eroded to just two points at the top.
Win and it’s all smiles again for Jurgen Klopp & Co who face Bournemouth at home next Saturday before a visit to Old Trafford. However, a draw or whisper it, a loss tonight, and suddenly we’ve got a title race on our hands again.
The omens are very good for the visitors, who have beaten the Hammers in their last four Premier League clashes – and scored four goals each time (4-0,4-1,1-4,0-4).
Despite their notions of footballing royalty, there’s enough evidence to suggest West Ham collapse like cheap flat-pack furniture when they go a goal down – and there’s every chance that will happen again tonight.
A return to the London Stadium means they’ll have to face the home fans again after two away defeats to Bournemouth and Wolves. They can at least cling to the 1-0 victory over Arsenal the last time they played in London’s East End, but that’s unlikely to be enough.
The Hammers have conceded nine goals in their last five games and have scored just three times.
While seven did come on their travels – they were against Bournemouth, Wolves and Burnley. They even conceded two at home to Brighton.
Mo Salah, Mane and Firminho could have a field day again if the Londoners don’t get a grip early on and we’ve left room for the Hammers to chip in with a couple of goals if they fancy it. One for the neutrals.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have kept six clean sheets on the road in the top tier this season – already one more than in the whole of last season.
West Ham haven’t exactly been rattling the onion bag, hitting the net just three times in their last five games and they desperately need Marko Arnautovic to be passed fit to give them some attacking threat. If not, the goal-scoring detail could fall to midfielder Felipe Anderson to add to his eight-goal haul this season.
We thought about the Liverpool to keep a clean sheet at evens, as they’ve posted five in their last six away wins and with the Hammers goal-less in their last two games, it’s a decent option.
But, in case West Ham manage to nick a goal, we’ll go for the extra insurance of Liverpool leading at half time and full time – regardless of how many West Ham score.
He scores goals, does Mo Salah.
His three strikes in four Premier League games over January has already seen him bag The PFA Player of the Month, and his record against West Ham is a tasty too.
The Egyptian King has four goals and one assist against West Ham, that has another motivating factor on his side tonight.
Salah has 48 Premier League goals for Liverpool and will become the fastest player to score 50 for a single club (61 league games, Alan Shearer took 66 games) if he were to bag a brace tonight.
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