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Match Preview: Liverpool v. West Ham, 11.20.10

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It's West Ham's turn to get transformed into an attacking juggernaut.

Because taking the match to them at Anfield would just be foolish.

I'd try to argue that this is the chance for Liverpool to really break out, for Roy Hodgson to unshackle himself and his personnel, and for Liverpool to start to make some forward progress. It seems like the perfect opportunity, doesn't it?

West Ham are bottom of the table, winless since September, and struggling to assert themselves as anything beyond relegation fodder for the duration of the season. Their lone win came against Tottenham back on September 25th, when Frederic Piquionne's header was enough for the Hammers to get past Spurs 1-0. They've been able to earn a point at a time along the way, but after losing four straight to open the campaign, they will surely need more.

And after the way Liverpool played against Stoke and Wigan, there's no reason for them to come in with their tails between their legs. They've got a decent assemblage of talent, led by midfielder Scotty Parker, who's more or less been the star of the show for the London side over the past few seasons. Once-rumored Liverpool target Carlton Cole will likely feature up front, but the aforementioned Piquionne will be the one to watch. It'll probably be Luis Boa Morte and Mark Noble along with Parker in the midfield, and Matthew Upson will lead the defense in front of Robert Green.

Like I said, a fairly solid squad that, for one reason or another, hasn't been able to get a win in the past month and a half. At times they've scored enough to win (2-2 draws with West Brom and Birmingham) or not at all (1-0 loss to Arsenal, 0-0 draw with Blackpool), and in between they've sprinkled three 1-1 draws. Whatever the case, the days of coming to Anfield and sitting back are gone, and I'd expect Avram Grant to have his squad ready.

For Liverpool:

1. Who will start for Liverpool?
2. What’s the most important factor for the Reds?
3. Who’s going to win and what’s going to be the scoreline?

1. Who will start for Liverpool?

Reina
Johnson Carragher Skrtel Konchesky
Maxi Meireles Poulsen Jovanovic
Kuyt
Torres

---They've gone and made it impossible to omit Christian Poulsen. Suspension for Lucas, injury midweek for Steven Gerrard, and now news that Jay Spearing has a hairline fracture and will miss up to six weeks.

---The squad is boosted by the fitness of Glen Johnson, Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt, and Martin Skrtel, and I'd guess that all will feature. That backline is one that we haven't seen in awhile, mostly due to the prolonged absence of Johnson. It'll be interesting to see how Johnson figures into the plans once he's back; assuming that it's tomorrow, let's hope that Hodgson is an avid reader of Noel's posts. But yeah, Jamie Carragher and Paul Konchesky and stuff, too. Pace yourself.

---The day has arrived. Like I mentioned, there's no other choice but to start Poulsen. And maybe I'm making a meal out of it. After all, we're quick to defend Johnson and Torres and Raul Meireles when they look awful in Hodgson's shit-for-brains tactical approach, so maybe we give Poulsen a little leeway upon his return. Plus, there's all that beautiful Scandinavian hair to admire. We know he's in, and I'm hoping that we see him partner Meireles in the middle part of the pitch. Maxi and maybe Jovanovic wide? I'm hopeful the latter gets in especially, but given Roy's prolonged wrist-slapping of Dani Pacheco, maybe there's more to it.

---I think Torres and Kuyt are Hodgson's go-to pairing for the time being, unless Torres' fitness is fleeting and he pulls out prior to kickoff. But like with anything else, not really contingent on their performances as individuals. Wait for the hoof, chase it down, lose out, go defend. Ah, the glamorous life of a Hodgson-supervised attacking player.

2. What’s the most important factor for the Reds?

Until something changes, it's always the same. Here's what I wrote when Liverpool hosted Blackpool over a month ago:

"For me, it's essential that Liverpool respond to the previous weeks' failings in a big way---we've all been waiting for it, and now's as good a time as any. I hope for it, but I'm not sure I expect it, and that's largely down to Hodgson. There's not much more here for me. Liverpool need to show intent, character, and drive, or else they continue their slide into irrelevance."

I'm on repeat, except now I'm a little less hopeful, sorry to say.

3. Who’s going to win and what’s going to be the scoreline?

But that doesn't mean I can't predict a win! 2-0 Liverpool. Boom. Fire to rain from the heavens, Roy Hodgson to laud himself in the post-match. "We were short of fitness, but I managed to get the boys motivated and playing while they were up against it. Wa wa, wah wah, wah wah wah wah."

Same as last week for the televised coverage---ESPN in the UK, and Fox Soccer Channel in the US. Matchday post will run a few hours before kickoff, and that will have links for those that need to follow via computer.

Have a nice Friday everyone.