Without a win at Anfield since 1963, it’s pretty safe to say that expectations will be low when West Ham United visit Merseyside this weekend. After a shock result on opening day saw them beat Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, the Hammers have since slumped to two back-to-back defeats with the 4-3 loss to newly promoted AFC Bournemouth last weekend being met by the Upton Park faithful with a shower of boos.
Liverpool, on the other hand, remain undefeated since kicking off their Premier League campaign with a satisfying 1-0 win over Stoke City that saw Reds attacker Philippe Coutinho score a wonderful curling effort late in the game. A narrow, and controversial, win over the aforementioned Bournemouth followed before Brendan Rodgers side secured a hard fought draw with Arsenal on Monday to stay among the early season pace-setters — something that Irons boss Slaven Bilic will look to disrupt come Saturday.
“They are a tough team and have seven points. They have not scored so many goals but have not conceded many. The results are different,” said the Croatian manager, speaking to the press ahead of their trip to Anfield. “If you see the players they have bought, they still want to be attacking and score goals. They have quality in every department of the pitch and are really dangerous upfront. Now they have physical size with Benteke and the quality with Coutinho and Firmino,” he continued, knowing full well that the Hammer’s don’t have the best record at Anfield. “Seven points from three games is what they expected and I am expecting a tough game. But we are positive as well and they have their weaknesses which we need to exploit.”
Bilic, of course, knows all about Liverpool having played for cross-town rivals Everton during a long career and, most recently, was in charge of the Besiktas side that knocked the Reds out of the Europa League last season. Having experienced Anfield on more than one occasion before, he’s well aware exactly what it takes to get a result there and he’ll be hoping that his backline — set to be marshalled by Winston Reid — will put in a much better showing than they did against Bournemouth.
“It doesn’t get any easier, but we all know we have to sharpen up a lot to get better,” the defender told West Ham’s official website in the build-up to the Liverpool match. “It is only three games into the season, but we need to wake ourselves up. We need to find the form we had in the first game at Arsenal, it would be nice to get a result like that,” explained Reid. “We have to go back to the training ground and try and lift the place, get some smiles back on our faces and get ready for that game.”
Rodgers and the boys haven’t exactly lit things up this season with only a pair of goals from three outings, but it’s still early days for the men in red. They created chances galore during a frantic first half in North London on Monday night, but just couldn’t find the back of the net with the woodwork and Arsenal ‘keeper Petr Cech conspiring to keep the contest scoreless. Bilic can take heart from their inability to break the deadlock, but after shipping four goals to a newly promoted side, he could be looking to reshuffle his defence — and that could lead to a recall for James Tomkins after he was overlooked for their last two outings.
“I am willing to fight for my position and it is something I strive on. You have got to better yourself every time you go out onto the training field. I am looking forward to seeing what the team is on Saturday and hopefully I will be playing,” he said of this weekends meeting with the Reds. “It was disappointing going out of the team after coming away a good victory at Emirates Stadium. But it is all about showing what you can do in training and getting the performances in when you can. I want to stay in the team,” continued Tomkins. “It is important that we bounce back very quickly. We are all very positive in the changing room and need to keep believing in what we are doing because we have already showed that against a big team like Arsenal.”