Job done for Tottenham and Manchester City this weekend, so now the onus is on Liverpool to follow their two closest challengers and pick up three points away to West Ham tonight. A nervy and frustrating 1-1 draw against Leicester last week represented a missed opportunity for the Reds to put significant daylight between them and the chasing pack, so now Jurgen Klopp’s team need to show that they have the mental fortitude to withstand the heat of a title race.
This would seem like a good time to be travelling to the London Stadium given West Ham’s wretched January, with an FA Cup exit to League One opposition, a downturn in Premier League results and the will-he-won’t-he transfer saga involving Marko Arnautovic all casting a shadow over the Hammers recently. Manuel Pellegrini could do with better fortune in February, so can they capitalise on a potentially jittery Liverpool or will they feel the wrath of scorned league leaders? Our statistical analysis looks for omens as to how tonight’s fixture will fare out.
Last six Premier League games
West Ham: W2, D1, L3, F5, A10, Pts 7
Liverpool: W4, D1, L1, F16, A7, Pts 13
On the face of it, a record of 14 goals conceded in 24 league games is fairly impressive from Liverpool. Less flattering is that half of those goals have been shipped in the last five matches, with the goals conceded tally they had after 19 matches being doubled in a third of that number of games since Boxing Day. The draw with Leicester was only the second time that the Reds have dropped points from a winning position in the Premier League this season, the other being against Arsenal in November, and only the second home game that they haven’t won, Manchester City being the one other club to leave Anfield with a result.
After five wins in six league games during December, West Ham have only won one out of five since beating Southampton five and a half weeks ago. That victory came against Arsenal, though, and Klopp will know that the Hammers have also beaten Manchester United and drawn with Chelsea on their own patch this season. January ended horrendously for Pellegrini’s side, though, with seven goals conceded across two ignominious defeats to AFC Wimbledon and Wolves.
Premier League head-to-head record
In 45 previous Premier League meetings, Liverpool have a 60% win ratio compared to West Ham’s 20%. The Hammers’ last Premier League victory against the current league leaders came in January 2016, a 2-0 triumph at the now-vacated Boleyn Ground. West Ham’s last league point against Liverpool was earned two seasons ago in a 2-2 draw at Anfield on a day that Loris Karius would rather forget.
Recent history leans very much in Liverpool’s favour. They have won the last four meetings between the teams and scored four goals on each occasion. In two visits to the London Stadium, the Reds have won 4-0 towards the end of the 2016/17 season and 4-1 last time around (see below). In two subsequent Anfield clashes, Liverpool won by those same scorelines.
Last London Stadium meeting
West Ham 1-4 Liverpool, 4 November 2017
An orange-clad Liverpool were fancied to make the most of West Ham’s struggles, with manager Slaven Bilic under intense pressure, and a slick counterattacking display put the home team to the sword. From a West Ham corner in the 21st minute, Liverpool broke devastatingly and Mohamed Salah finished the move off by scoring the opener. The Reds soon profited from a corner of their own, Joel Matip applying the final touch to double the lead.
A neat finish by Manuel Lanzini early in the second half gave West Ham hope but that was very quickly extinguished by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain netting his first Premier League goal for Liverpool. Salah added a fourth goal on 75 minutes to eliminate any faint hopes of a Hammers comeback. It was also the point of no return for Bilic, who was sacked by West Ham two days later and replaced by David Moyes, with the club languishing in 17th place almost a third of the way through the season.
Liverpool’s sweet 16
Liverpool have scored 16 goals in their last four fixtures against West Ham, with that tally shared equally across the four games. Where have those 16 goals come from and will that be any indicator as to who might be likely to find the net tonight?
4: Mohamed Salah
3: Sadio Mane
2: Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge
1: Emre Can, Roberto Firmino, Joel Matip, Divock Origi, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
It’s no surprise that the Reds’ first-choice front three of Salah, Mane and Firmino account for half of that tally; Matip could also start given the dearth of defensive options while Sturridge and Origi are likely to be among the substitutes. Oxlade-Chamberlain isn’t ready to make his comeback from long-term injury yet, though, while Coutinho and Can have departed for foreign shores since their goals in the 4-0 win in May 2017 and last season’s 4-1 triumph respectively.