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Liverpool vs West Ham United: match preview

Filed: Friday, 28th October 2005
By: Matthew Coker

Here we go again, Saturday means back in the minibus for a trip to Liverpool as we take on the Champions of Europe in the Premier League. Our inability to win at Anfield has been well documented, I am sure that you are all aware that the last time we won there was in 1963. To put the length of time into perspective, in 1963, Stevie Wonder released his first album and the Great Train Robbery took place.

“Mind you, I’ve been here during the bad times too – one year we came second.” - Bob Paisley

Liverpool’s poor domestic form has been discussed in some detail by the football world. So far this season, they have been beaten by Fulham and annihilated by Chelscum. They have achieved goalless draws with Middlesbrough, Man Yoo and Spurs and a 2-2 at Birmingham. Their solitary victory to date was a 1-0 victory at home over Sunderland. This puts them in 13th place with a goals for tally of four. Their season did not improve much midweek as they were dumped out of the Carling Cup by Palarse.

The modern Liverpool is also partially responsible for spreading the myth that 4-5-1 is a defensive formation. It is not defensive if you include some attacking midfielders in your team, usually wingers. It is negative and boring if you only use your midfield to get behind the ball and the only attacking strategy is to punt the ball forward to your 9 foot tall striker.

The manager is Rafa “The Gaffer” Benitez, a Spaniard whose playing career was spent at Real Madrid (0 appearances in seven years) and in the Spanish lower leagues. His managerial career has been much more successful, working his way up the ranks to lead Valencia to their first Primera Liga in 31 years, followed by another one and a UEFA cup victory. His first season in charge at Anfield saw Liverpool win the Champions League.

In goal will be the highly rated Jose “Why does it always” Reina, a summer capture from Valencia. The two central defenders are the long serving Sami Hyppia alongside Mickey Mouser, Jamie Carragher and they are a solid partnership (apart from against Moanrinho’s team). Wide men will probably be Steve Finnan and Stephen Warnock, though Djimi Traore and Josemi “E D Sam” have both featured over the course of the season.

Unfortunately for us, Steven Gerrard, the most loyal Dougie Howser, will be playing on Saturday. He is the heartbeat and legs of Liverpool, and has driven them through games single-handedly on many an occasion. In common with Francesco Totti of Roma, he has pledged his future to his home club, snubbing a number of bigger name options to stay loyal. Their Brookingesque commitment should be applauded in the modern game, especially as both players are capable of being bigger fish in nearly any pond they chose to frequent.

The rest of the midfield will feature three or four from defensive German midfielder, Dietmar Hamann, defensive Norwegian midfielder with a lethal shot John Arne Riise, young Frenchman Mohamed Sissoko, procured for £5m from Valencia, Xabi “Shabby” Alonso. Spaniard Luis Garcia is also in contention. He scored 13 last season, including the controversial decider Champions League semi final decider and got one against Birmingham this year.

The main attacking midfield options come from Florent Sinama Pongolle and Harry Kewell, who has suffered badly with injury since making his agent a fortune by leaving T’Leeds, but is starting to present a few reminders of why he was signed in the first place. The other option appears to be newly and unhappily converted right winger, Djibril Cisse. He has offered pace but little finesse in recent outings.

“He’s big, he’s red, his feet stick out the bed, Peter Crouch” – Liverpool chant

Cisse is the only Liverpool striker to have hit the back of the net this season in a league game and that came from the penalty spot. The non scoring strikers are Fernando Morientes and Peter Crouch, who have a combined height of 12 ft 7”. Fernando has been there and done it at the highest level, a regular for the Spanish national team in two World Cup finals and Euro 2004. His best season was in 2003/04 when he scored 9 Champions League goals whilst on loan at Monaco including against his employers at the time, Real Madrid.

Peter Crouch has spent time at Aston Villa, Norwich and Southampton amongst others and has been handed his first big chance in the spotlight this season, a role that comes with as many column inches as he has real inches. If I had a pound for every time I had read that he has good touch for a big man, I could make TB an offer that he couldn’t refuse. Their secret weapon is a young up and coming striker called Neil Mellor (bwaahahahahah).

Our opponents are in a bad way. If defeat at Fulham didn’t warrant them enough bad publicity, the Palace debacle was the last thing they needed. These two games were a clear demonstration of their frailties but it will have got their backs up to be so badly criticised. Their reputation for clean sheets has been rattled slightly and they won’t have sorted out their goal drought by Saturday. Whatever happens, I can’t see us getting a pasting on Saturday.

We are back on track but our last two away performances have not been great. I am hoping that we are just a little camera shy but that could be a little optimistic. Our results against Boro and Fulham have been better than theirs but we are playing at Anfield.

Our success will depend on Mullins containing Gerrard, especially around the edge of our penalty area where he can be lethal. If we are able to tempt them to come forward a bit, the centre backs do lack a little pace that can be exposed by our speedy attacking players. I will also confess to being slightly concerned by the untested Mr Hislop.

I am prepared to predict that Anton will follow in his brother’s footsteps and have an excellent game against a team that is tracking his progress. I also predict that the travelling support will take coals to Newcastle with our rendition of Twist and Shaht. Score wise, I can’t see us losing but Man City is still too fresh in the memory to believe that we can win this. Therefore, I’m going for 1-1, Sheringham for us.

Enjoy the game.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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