The slow march to the end of the season continues tomorrow for Liverpool, who will play out the season with as little action possible through May 19th. Those lamenting the worthlessness of the Europa League and domestic cup competitions are probably quite content, but the rest of us are mostly bored as the Premier League schedule winds down with only one fixture per week the rest of the way.
Liverpool's on the outside looking in for most anything that matters, and while we've all found ourselves frustrated at the constant discussion of European qualification, that at least provides a sense of purpose in a finish that's otherwise lacking. One match at a time, as always, but there's fewer and fewer matches to take as such, and if there's going to be any sort of surprises, the outcomes of said matches had better be positive.
Tomorrow presents an opportunity to continue their solid run of results at Anfield, albeit against a West Ham squad that have won two of their last three. A 2-0 loss at Chelsea was sandwiched by wins against Stoke and West Brom, the latter of which came with two goals by Liverpool loanee Andy Carroll. Concerns about relegation have been assuaged for now, as Sam Allardyce's side sit six points off the drop and are comfortably ahead of the other contenders on goal difference.
Carroll won't be able to play a part tomorrow, and Joe Cole will also miss out with a hamstring injury. Allardyce will be without Mark Noble as well, meaning he'll have to rely on a backup attacking unit. He'll have to pick from Marouane Chamakh or Carlton Cole to replace Carroll temporarily, with Kevin Nolan, Ricardo Vaz Te, and Matthew Jarvis all expected to start in the midfield. Jussi Jaaskelainen has been a mainstay in goal, and Guy Demel, Winston Reid, Joey O'Brien, and James Tomkins will likely feature in defense behind the midfield cover of Mohamed Diame and Gary O'Neil.
Johnson Carragher Agger Enrique
Downing Henderson Coutinho
There's no surprises for Liverpool in terms of fitness other than Raheem Sterling, who might be missing an extended spell with a thigh injury. Martin Kelly and Fabio Borini are getting closer, but any extended run prior to season's end won't be realistic for either of the club's longer-term injury worries.
No reason for change at the back, where all are fit and ready to go. Glen Johnson's form is the biggest concern, but with Andre Wisdom far away from first-team action there's not really any challenge to push the off-form Johnson along. The rest of the defense goes similarly unchallenged, and while there's not necessarily any reason to displace Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger, Jose Enrique, or Pepe Reina, it'd be nice if there was a body ready and waiting.
Hopefully the midfield remains the same; Jordan Henderson certainly did enough at Villa Park to justify a starting spot for the time being, and Steven Gerrard and Lucas won't be going anywhere any time soon. The rest of the season is basically on-the-job retraining for Lucas, who's vacillated between very good and just sort of serviceable over the past few months. We're still in the midst of the Steven Gerrard plays every Premier League minute because because, and there's no reason to think that there's any sort of change on the horizon.
The attacking contingent looks good enough without Daniel Sturridge, who won't be in line for a start until one of Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho, or Stewart Downing falters. There's always a chance that Rodgers opts to leave Jordan Henderson out and include Sturridge, but there's not a compelling reason to do so.
Another early kickoff tomorrow, with the start time set for 1:30PM GMT/8:30AM EST. Fox Soccer Plus will have coverage in the US, but there's not currently any viewing options in the UK. We'll run whatever's available in the matchday thread early in the day tomorrow, and we'll have any other sort of news that's around from now until kickoff as well. Feel free to join us in the comments or over on Twitter, and we'll all be looking forward to a nice finish to the weekend.