West Ham manager Slaven Bilić has made a habit of frustrating Liverpool, going back to when he was running the show at Beşiktaş and guiding the Turkish club past Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool in the Europa League. Jürgen Klopp hasn’t had the best of luck either against Bilić, managing a 2-2 stalemate when the sides met at Anfield earlier in the season. Whether or not that trend continues will depend very much on which West Ham shows up on Sunday.
It’s never a great season when you’re fretting about safety from relegation late in the campaign. And yet that is where West Ham found themselves until not that long ago. Having done the job against Tottenham, Bilić’s team can now look forward to the final home match of the season without the pressure of having that contest mean anything too significant. Perhaps eager to avoid a letdown, Bilić has urged his players to build on last week’s performance:
“We are preparing and we are planning to do something similar to last week when we play Liverpool.
There are a lot of similarities in those two sides - we still have two games and we are very ambitious for six points from those two games.
Definitely I am expecting the same kind of determination, commitment and teamwork like it was against Spurs.”
Expectations and exhortations are one thing, actual levels of interest among the players may be another. After all, West Ham had just bested a high-flying London rival (effectively ending their title hopes), banished the specter of relegation, and taken another step in dispelling lingering bad vibes around their new stadium. What would top that? In Bilić’s view - a victory over Liverpool:
“I told them already, it's Liverpool at home, it's our last home game of the season. It can't be any bigger.
If you are playing Liverpool in front of 60,000 people it's the best situation. I am expecting us to be even better than we were against Spurs.”
Seems like the bar could be higher for something to be “the best situation,” but to each his own. Liverpool supporters, for their part, will hope that West Ham’s players treat Sunday as a “don’t-care” situation.