Saturday, September 19, 2009

Match Preview: Liverpool vs West Ham

Rafael Benitez has told his Liverpool players they need to be more attacking following their 1-0 win over Debrecen in the Champions League. Despite notching up 23 attempts on goal and dominating proceedings the Reds only managed to get seven of those shots on target and won by just the one goal.

This is what Benitez told skysports: "OK, we could have done it a little better by scoring another goal with the chances that we had, but because we didn't score (a second), we were thinking that they could've scored so it was more difficult until the end."

The task of improving their accuracy comes against West Ham United in the late kick off on Saturday. The Hammers looked out of sorts last weekend as they went down 1-0 away at Wigan Athletic and they haven’t won since the opening game of the season. Not surprisingly the away side are the favourites to take all three points in this encounter but on home soil Gianfranco Zola’s side are no pushovers and Liverpool will have to make the most of their chances at Upton Park.

There is a chance the Hammers could welcome back Kieron Dyer, Jack Collison and Herita Ilunga for the tie with Liverpool. All three remain doubtful and will face late fitness tests before they will know whether they can take part of not. Dean Ashton and Luis Boa Morte are ruled out for some time and neither stands a chance of taking part on Saturday. Liverpool’s injury list still includes Danny Agger and Alberto Aquilani, though El Zhar has a slim chance of returning for the trip to London.

On paper you would expect Liverpool to take all three points in this encounter, indeed that is what the bookies seem to think and the Premier League betting odds on a Liverpool win reflect this. However, the Hammers have a few players capable of causing any defence problems and it won’t be a walk in the park for Rafa’s men. Occasional England international Carlton Cole has a knack of scoring important goals and he usually ups his game against the bigger sides. Mark Noble and Scott Parker provide West Ham with a steady engine in midfield and Noble in particular can deliver the goods from corners and free-kicks. In defence Matthew Upson is a hard man to pass and makes few mistakes.

The key man for Liverpool could be former Hammer Yossi Benayoun. For me Yossi has been one of Liverpool’s best performers throughout 2009, perhaps since his winner at the Bernabeu in last season’s Champions League. Yossi bagged a hat-trick against Burnley last weekend and while I may be hesitant to suggest he’ll repeat the feat two weeks in a row it might be worth considering an online soccer bet on Yossi to bag anytime. The Israeli is in top-form and will relish the chance to play against his old club.

The fact the Reds played in midweek may make this game harder than perhaps it should be but I’m still expecting them to come out on top. The Hammers created just a handful of chances against Wigan last weekend and if they perform the way they did in that game Liverpool should have no problem in taking all three points.

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