Let’s start with the maths: Liverpool head into their final two fixtures knowing for certain that victories against West Ham at the London Stadium and Middlesbrough at home on the final day guarantees Champions League football.
There is a scenario where they can guarantee it this weekend, although that would require a Stoke City win over Arsenal on Saturday evening, followed by a Liverpool win, and then Manchester United failing to win away at Tottenham in Spurs’ final game at White Hart Lane.
Last week’s dour 0-0 draw with Southampton was a largely forgettable experience, but the point could be vital in the end. An equally tense and tight game is likely to be in store a week later, but Liverpool must find a way to overcome that, as they did against Watford, Stoke and West Brom in their previous three away games. Another scrappy 0-1 would be more than satisfactory.
West Ham go into their final home game of the season with a stack of injuries. Andy Carroll is out with a groin injury, whilst Mark Noble’s season is over as he goes for surgery on an abdominal issue.
Cheikhou Kouyate, Angelo Ogbonna, Pedro Obiang and Diafra Sakho are also missing, and most importantly so is Michail Antonio, who scored in the reverse fixture at Anfield earlier in the season. The other scorer in that game, Dmitri Payet, was sold in January.
Roberto Firmino and Lucas are potential doubts for Liverpool, but at this late stage in the campaign they will be risked if at all possible. Firmino is expected to train tomorrow and will be assessed late on. Of the two, he is most likely to make it, with Lucas struggling with more than one muscle problem.
Daniel Sturridge, though, is one player who is ready to return. With the struggles of Divock Origi in recent weeks, it is possible he will get the chance to start the game. With West Ham one of the teams interested in purchasing him in the summer, this is almost an audition.
Liverpool have not been creating many chances from open play recently, and Sturridge’s clinical prowess in front of goal could be key. He may still have a big role to play.
The Reds failed to register against Southampton, and before that their previous three goals were either from set-pieces or moments of individual brilliance, like Emre Can’s overhead kick, which was awarded Liverpool’s goal of the season award this week. Give Sturridge one chance, and you would back him to score.
West Ham’s last home game saw them end Tottenham’s title hopes, and Liverpool will be aiming to stop them ending their season’s ambitions too.
“Their Tottenham performance was their best in a long time,” Jurgen Klopp said of Sunday’s opponents.
“I think Tottenham were not at their best on this night,” he added. If Liverpool do turn up, they should have enough.
There was also a little dig made at Southampton, who were beaten by top four rivals Arsenal midweek.
“It was a completely different game when Southampton played Arsenal [to when Liverpool faced them and they sat back and defended],” Klopp said, “I have no idea why they did them that favour”.
One of the more bizarre quotes from the press conference came when Klopp was asked about the pressure on his team in the final two games.
“I’m in a positive mood – without drugs! It shouldn’t be a surprise that I don’t use things like this,” he exclaimed in typical style. No doubt that quote will be circulated several times in the coming months and years, as one of the more random turns of phrase he has used.
With the significant carrot of Champions League football up for grabs, Liverpool should need no reminders of how important it is they get over the line.
As Klopp said, “It’s football. It’s a game. We’re good at this game”. Now would be the perfect time to remind everyone of that.
WHEN DOES THE GAME KICK OFF?
The match starts at 14:15 GMT and is live on Sky Sports.
WHO IS THE REFEREE?
Neil Swarbrick – the Lancashire official has done 22 Premier League games this season, and has shown 85 yellow cards and just the one red. He has also awarded five penalties.
He refereed Liverpool’s 2-1 home win in the league against West Brom, and also their 1-0 defeat to Southampton in the EFL Cup semi-final first-leg at St Mary’s.
For West Ham, Swarbrick saw them draw 1-1 at home with Middlesbrough and win 3-0 at home against Crystal Palace. The latter of those matches was in mid-January.
None of the previous eleven games between West Ham and Liverpool in London have ended in a draw, with West Ham winning four, and Liverpool seven. The last draw was 1-1 at the end of 2001.
West Ham United: Adrian; Byram, Fonte, Reid, Collins, Cresswell; Nordveidt, Lanzini, Snodgrass; Calleri, Ayew
Liverpool: Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Matip, Milner; Can, Lallana, Wijnaldum; Firmino, Sturridge, Coutinho
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