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Match Preview: Liverpool v. West Ham, 02.27.11

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Liverpool head to Upton Park to face last-place West Ham.

A number of factors have conspired against me today, none of which were positive, so this one's a bit late and a bit scrambled. As usual, people in the comments can provide most of the insight.

Both teams head into tomorrow with a bit of urgency, as Liverpool are clinging to hopes of an outside run at fourth and need to return to a bit more inspiring brand of football. West Ham, meanwhile, enter the final stretch of the season needing every point they can manage. The Hammers have plenty left to do, with visits to Spurs, Chelsea, and Manchester City on the horizon to go along with tomorrow's home date against Liverpool and an early April visit from Manchester United.

Wolves' win over Blackpool earlier in the day places West Ham in the 20th spot for the time being, and from here on out they're going to need to create some of their own good fortune. Of the five fixtures listed above, tomorrow's probably the best chance they have at getting any points---Liverpool haven't been overly impressive in the past couple weeks and had well-documented struggles earlier in the season away from home, and Avram Grant's side are coming off a 5-1 win against Burnley in the FA Cup. Not a season-changing result by any stretch, but possibly something to build off.

Like Liverpool, West Ham might have to contend with some missing faces---Victor Obinna is doubtful with a foot injury, Matthew Upson has an achilles problem, and Kieron Dyer and Robbie Keane are both out. If Obinna misses out that leaves Demba Ba, Frederic Piquionne, and Carlton Cole to carry the water up front, with Scott Parker driving the team forward from midfield alongside a recently fit Thomas Hitzlsperger. Robert Green's had another up and down season thus far but will start in goal behind a back line that will likely miss Upson.

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
Kelly Carragher Skrtel Johnson
Meireles Lucas Gerrard
Maxi Kuyt Suarez

---This is disgusting---seven names on the official injury tracker. I guess the silver lining is that only two will miss for sure (Andy Carroll and Jonjo Shelvey), which leaves questions about Daniel Agger, Steven Gerrard, Martin Kelly, Glen Johnson, and Fabio Aurelio, all of whom are floating somewhere in between match fitness and missing out.

---A return to the 4-3-3 seems likely tomorrow with Luis Suarez eligible and a lack of fully-fit central defenders. If the Wigan performance is anything to go off of, and I think we all hope that it is, Suarez can provide the attacking impetus that Liverpool sorely missed in the last two matches against Sparta Prague. Gerrard's return can obviously aid this effort as well.

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

It's not entirely necessary for Liverpool to play a prettier brand of football in order to get three points tomorrow, but getting results over the past month has mostly been contingent on the performance producing a result. The Sparta tie and the draw with Wigan a few weeks back saw Liverpool return to a more passive approach, and I don't think it's any coincidence that the results were disappointing at best. Yes, a full-strength Liverpool might have done much better, but regardless of who's available, Liverpool need a bit more going forward to accompany their recent solidity at the back.

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

Let the awful predictions continue---Liverpool to win 1-0. I don't know why I keep doing this to myself.

Plenty of viewing options tomorrow, with Sky Sports 1 carrying the match in the UK and Fox Soccer Channel televising it live in the US. This one's a bit earlier for viewers stateside, particularly those on the West Coast, so I'll schedule the matchday thread to go up at some point in the early morning. Links to streams and whatever news I'm able to scrounge together will be included, as usual.

Hope you all have a nice Saturday evening, and in the interest of keeping the music video thing going, enjoy some Otis.