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West Ham Utd v Liverpool: match preview

Filed: Friday, 18th September 2009
By: Preview Percy

Next up we have a visit from the red half of Merseyside.

Whenever you write anything about the city of Liverpool you know you are treading on a bit of a knife-edge. The second a mildly critical word hits the screen the inhabitants go all up in arms about how the rest of the country is against them. So, in the interest of giving the chap who mans the “comments” in-box that appears at the bottom of this column a quiet time, I would like to make it clear that Liverpool is in no way a crumbling dump and that everyone born there is naturally hilarious – I mean you only have to look at the likes of Boardman, O’Connor, Black & Dodd for proof of that.

The city is rightly proud of its famous sons the Beatles who, of course all spent as much time as possible in their home town and in no way legged it to somewhere better as soon as they could afford to get out. (though I should point out that the fab four were only no.2 in the album charts last week behind Dame Vera Lynn whose "Best Of" contains a version of "Bubbles apparently)! And I’d like to say that the sitcom “Bread” was a side-splitting look at……..no hang on there’s only so far you can push a guy.

Liverpool haven’t seen a top-flight title come their way since lord knows when. Last season was probably the closest they’ve got in recent memory, though, in truth, it took a minor Man Utd wobble towards the end of the season to give them what turned out to be false hope. Since then the transfer merry-go-round has seen a few changes to the squad with both Alonso and Arbeloa managing to get out before the burglars found out where they lived. They ended up forming part of Real Madrid’s recession-defying spending spree. The £33m or so that arrived on Merseyside as a result of the deals didn’t hang about long enough to have any significant impact on the interest repayments on their debt. £20m of it ended up in Italy in exchange for Roma’s Aquilani. A few million went on Greek defender Kyrgiakos and Glen Johnson also arrived for an “undisclosed” fee.

The former-Hammer’s arrival was an unusual event at Anfield representing as it did the rare appearance of an Englishman. Boss Benitez has been fairly vocal of late over the new quota rules that the Premier League will be introducing. This is hardly surprising given that 90% of their first team squad – the highest level in Europe – are described as expats. Clearly the prospect of having to work hard at bringing players through the ranks is not one that appeals.

One of the few other Englishmen in the squad is, of course, Steve Gerrard. Gerrard can thank his lucky stars he wasn’t born “sur le continent,” since his legendary inability to remain upright whenever he approaches free-kick territory would be rightly slated in the press had he been one of Benitez’s imports. For some reason though journos shy away from mentioning this trait - possibly in the hope that the England might benefit from its use in South Africa. I do have a vague memory that Mike Riley booked him for “simulation” in a match against Chelsea last season. There again in that particular match even as poor a ref as Riley must have been spoilt for choice.

Gerrard of course has had one result this year in obtaining a not-guilty verdict after “dealing with” a DJ who wouldn’t play his favourite music. Gerard argued that he acted in self-defence what with only having five mates with him to defend him against such a big DJ. Of course Gerrard’s friends were not quite as lucky as he was and they were all found guilty of not being famous.

On the pitch it’s been a question of inconsistency. The opening day defeat at Spurs was accompanied by bleatings about the refereeing. The defeat was followed by an easy 4-0 home win against Stoke, a rubbish performance in a 3-1 home defeat to Villa and somewhat fortunate 3-2 win at Bolton where, not for the first time, Alan Wiley gave them a helping hand – a generous sending off being the turning point at a time they were struggling.

Last weekend they comfortably saw off Burnley 4-0 with a hat-trick from Yossi Benayoun who in the interests of giving the chap who mans the “comments” inbox at the bottom of this column a quiet time, I would like to point out was in no way tapped-up and any conversations that Liverpool had with the player just after he’d verbally agreed a new contract almost certainly took place with the full permission of West Ham United FC. Even if they were totally unaware of them. Just like every other transfer Liverpool have ever been involved in. Obviously.

In midweek they laboured to a 1-0 win in the borefest that is the Champions League (please somebody wake me up when it gets to the knockout stages)and, at home they lie in 5th place with 9 points from their 5 games to date.

On the personnel front their main injury doubts are the aforementioned Aquilina whose £20m cost provided no protection against an ankle injury, and Daniel Agger who is suffering with a bad back. Both are rated “highly doubtful” at the time of writing. Javier Mascherano (cough) is, however, likely to be available having recovered from a pelvic problem.

On our part Zola will have a number of selection issues following last week’s disappointing defeat up at Wigan. Diamanti’s introduction suggested that he would be worth a place in the starting line-up whilst both Collison and (wait for it) Dyer are both said to be close to a return. There have been conflicting reports, however, over the fitness or otherwise of Herita Ilunga, with some sources quoting him as a possible whilst others as being most definitely out.

Expect Gabbidon to continue on the left if that is the case. One player I wouldn’t expect to see starting is new striker Guillermo Franco who has joined the, er, international brigade (ho,ho) at the Boleyn. Franco (who ought to be a right winger with that name) is probably been brought in more as cover for Carlton Cole in the same manner as Tristan was brought in last season, though hopefully he’ll have a little more about him.

We need to start scoring. Though there were opportunities last week once we finally got off our backsides and started to take the game to the opposition, it took an opposition goal to kick-start us out of what appeared to be a sense of apathy. If we’re to get anything out of what will be one of our trickier games we’ll need to be up for it right from the start rather than reacting when it’s far too late. However, the visitors’ defence has been a concern to them of late and, if they persist in that zonal marking malarkey, that could be good news for the likes of Upson and Tomkins at corners. Tomkins in particular may feel that he owes us a goal after his two headed misses last week.

Much depends on which Liverpool side turns up for this one. If the current inconsistencies persist a win ought to be possible if we get our own act together. Sadly I don’t think that this will be the case and I think our lack of goals may preclude us from taking advantage of any shortcomings that the visitors may have. Also, bitter experience suggests that, even when we are at our best against this side they can normally rely on some sort of assistance from outside to get them out of jail and, despite Benitez’s rant at the White Hart Lane officials, they have always been one of the more favoured teams as far as the refereeing fraternity have been concerned. Given that I’ll aim for an optimistic 1-1 in the hope that we will at least give it a go.

Enjoy the game!

Last season: 0-3. A poor start to the match and a typically pro-Liverpool performance from their tame ref Wiley (see Bolton this season, Wigan last)were enough to give the visitors all three points despite an unimpressive performance. DiMichele's dive following a stumble provided comic relief at least.

Referee: Andre Marriner. Last seen at Boro’ away where we drew 1-1.

Danger Man: Steve Gerrard. When he stays on his feet he usually scores. When he falls over he usually scores from the resulting free-kick.

Look out for: A bunch of large gentlemen in dark glasses and ill-fitting suits. Apparently Jeremy is taking no chances and has hired extra security just in case Mr Gerrard doesn’t like the pre-match music.

We’re holding out our 3/1 on the draw from this game as we’re convinced of a result from these teams either way. We’ve seen money come for Liverpool this week and are 1/2 about them winning the game however the tide is turning and just had one punter on looking for 3k on West Ham to win the game at 5/1.

Elsewhere punters are bang up for the 15/1 about the 1-0 West Ham correct score. One punter told me if Torres is injured he doesn’t fancy them scoring and if the Hammers can score it’ll be only one of them. Biggest bet 1k

On the spreads punters obviously fancy an early score as everyone is selling the Time of the 1st Goal at 34 minutes.

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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