As the Premier League season 2016/17 is about to enter its final week, two games were played on Friday evening. Chelsea snatched the points away at West Brom by 0-1, and Everton won 1-0 against Watford at Goodison Park.
Ahead of the Saturday matches, the table stands like this:
By winning at the Hawthorns, Chelsea have now made sure no one can catch up with them, meaning – we have a new Premier League champion.
Of the last three Liverpool matches, we saw all three possible results happen. That, combined with Arsenal’s late revival, has caused some real, probably avoidable, anxiety about the top-four placement and involvement in the next season’s Champions League.
Under current circumstances, the Reds need to win their last two matches in order to keep their fate in their own hands, and it starts with West Ham at the London Stadium on Sunday.
The Hammers sit comfortably in 12th with 42 points, safe from relegation and with no chances whatsoever of progressing to Europe. This of course means that points mean absolutely nothing to them at this stage, but that has seldom played any part in a Premier League game – the fact once again proven when the already relegated Sunderland won away to Hull City, whose survival hangs by a thread.
With that and the style of play West Ham usually employ, as well as Liverpool’s recent form, it is reasonably safe to say the Reds are in for a tough game on Sunday.
With Jordan Henderson and Sadio Mane ruled out for both remaining games, Jurgen Klopp has been dealt with another potential blow, as he informed the public in his pre-match press conference that both Roberto Firmino and Lucas Leiva might miss this game due to minor injuries. On the other hand, Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge are fully fit and ready to play.
Slaven Bilic has worries of his own, as Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate join Andy Carroll, Michail Antonio, Pedro Obiang, Diafra Sakho, Angelo Ogbonna and Arthur Masuaku on the long list of absentees.
The Hammers enter this game on a string of good results, having linked five games without defeat, the last one being very notable for the fact that they beat Spurs at home and effectively handed Chelsea the chance to end the title race on Friday – and Antonio Conte’s side took it.
As has been said already, Liverpool haven’t been quite as impressive recently. After winning at West Brom and Stoke, they lost at home to Crystal Palace – courtesy of a brace from Christian Benteke, then they won at Watford and drew at home against Southampton.
It will probably be another one of those games where the opposition will try to frustrate Liverpool by sitting deep, defending in numbers and looking for a potential opening for a counterattack. An early goal would go a long way for the Reds in helping them keep calm, but should they fail to get it, it could be a very long game for them, and that development seems more likely at the moment.
Given the team news, Klopp’s decision on the line-up might be something like this:
There are other possibilities of course, one of them being a change of formation to accommodate two strikers, and it would potentially look like this:
To know for sure, we’ll have to wait for the line-ups to be confirmed on Sunday an hour before kick-off. Until then, keep calm if you can and keep your eyes on the Stoke vs Arsenal game on Saturday afternoon. Let’s hope Joe Allen and his current team-mates can give us some joy.