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Liverpool v West Ham United: Match Preview

Filed: Saturday, 17th April 2010
By: Preview Percy

We blew up a volcano in an attempt to stop him. Unfortunately the resulting cloud of ash failed to delay the buses so Preview Percy's back again and, gawd 'elp us, this time he's quoting T S Eliot....

Next it's a swift return to the land of the boarded-up buildings for a trip to Anfield for a punter-unfriendly 8pm kick-off against the red and whiny half of the city.

It is but a few months since manager Rafael Benitez guaranteed the Anfield faithful a place in the top four. This makes their current position in 6th place highly amusing. They currently lie some 6 points behind Man City who currently occupy fourth spot with a game in hand and a 7 goal advantage in the goal difference department. Funnier still is the fact that they are only one point clear of Villa in the last Europa League spot. The Europa League is, of course, a much-coveted trophy and is in no way the second-class tournament that the home supporters were saying it was before their exit from the so-called “Champions” league. They are therefore faced with the possibility that they will not be in Europe at all next season, though they will, no doubt try to find some legal loophole that will satisfy what they see as their divine right to European football.

All the main stories emanating from that part of the world at the moment seem to relate to off the field stuff. They recently appointed Martin Broughton, of British Airways to head the club. The effect was instant, as thousands of supporters found their half time pie options reduced to a choice of beef or chicken, a culinary delight followed by the kiosk attendant pouring coffee straight into their laps. Still it could have been worse – had they given the job to anyone from Ryanair they'd have found themselves charged extra for having the pie warmed up and they'd be watching home matches miles away from home – Liverpool (Runcorn) anyone?

Broughton's arrival is tied in with the announcement that Barclays Capital have been appointed by the club's US owners to handle the sale of the club. That is not going to be the easiest of jobs. Quite apart from the question of whether or not it is ever advisable to buy anything second-hand in that part of the world, the way that the septics handled the original purchase has left the club with a significant level of debt. The club's bankers, RBS (i.e. you and me) have been looking nervously at the amounts involved for a while now and the debt – currently in the region of £240m - was rescheduled last summer just before a rather large repayment was due.

Just to add to the mix we have recently been treated to the annual announcement of which club Benitez definitely hasn't been talking to, honest. This time round it's Juventus with whom there have been absolutely no discussions, though given that there is likely to be a change at the top at the Bernebau at the end of the season, we can expect Benitez and his agent to be holding absolutely no discussions at all with Real Madrid any day now. Again.

Unless the bods at Sky are being incredibly selective in their choice of interviewee (surely not!), it seems that the supporters are being remarkably tolerant with the manager, with Hicks and Gillet seemingly being held responsible for all that ails them. Well I suppose zonal marking is something that they use in basketball. It would be interesting to see if the Americans would get quite so much stick if the team were actually performing. Or, conversely, if Benitez would be getting away with quite so much murder if the club didn't owe quite so much money.

In amongst all that their form has been decidedly mixed of late. They've won two, drawn two and lost two of their last six. Their last two matches have finished in draws, 0-0 at home to Fulham and 1-1 away at Birmingham. The gifted but increasingly petulant Torres was substituted after 65 minutes at St Andrews and his body language as he walked off spoke volumes. Steve “caught red handed but never guilty” Gerrard was so surprised at the move that he quite forgot to dive for a bit.

Torres is listed as an unlikely participant on Monday. All that running into people then moaning when the ref fails to give a free-kick has taken its toll on his knees. He was due to pop back to Spain for a check-up this weekend but at the time of writing his journey has fallen foul of the cloud of volcanic ash currently sitting over the country. John Lennon Airport (so-named as it was the first place that the Beatles headed for as soon as they had made a few quid, allegedly), has been closed and not even the club's new chairman has been able to sort anything out. Still, had it been Ryanair Torres would probably have been paying for his own flight. Medical comment keeps stressing the need for Torres to rest and his appearance or otherwise on Monday night may depend as much on how results go elsewhere this weekend as it does on huge plumes of volcanic ash.

Others on the sick list are defenders Aurelio (thigh), Insua (thigh) and Skrtel (ankle/foot/missing vowel in surname). This will mean Daniel Agger probably filling in at left back.

Talking of injuries, one of their biggest disappointments of the season for them has been the absence of big money signing Aquilani, who has spent a lot of time on the sick since his arrival for £17m during the close season. Benitez recently queried the player's mental attitude to his injury problems. However, Merseyside is probably not the right place to be criticising somebody for claiming sick pay when they appear to be fit and, given the fact that Aquilani was signed from Roma, he's probably just trying to fit in by taking the phrase “when in Rome” to its logical conclusion. Whatever the reasoning behind Benitez's comments – and I suppose we cannot rule out a SuGo-style “motivational” motive – Aquilani did apparently have a decent game against Fulham, being thwarted by Mark Schwarzer on a number of occasions.

Elsewhere in the squad there are a few ex-Hammers to be found. Yossi Benayoun's transfer continued a long tradition of illegal work in the transfer market by a club that seems to be above all football regulations in this area. Portsmouth's financial problems saw them nipping in to rescue Glen Johnson's career, which had taken a marked turn for the worse since his promising start in the disastrous relegation season at the Boleyn. He's now a regular in the England set-up and he seems to have got over his predilection for shoplifting toilet seats, which is a bit of a shame really because, as his skipper will probably tell him, Liverpool players are above the law in that part of the world.

Then there is Javier Mascherano who made a few fleeting appearances before disappearing North West. Liverpool were given special permission from FIFA to sign the player in a regulation-busting deal, something that cheesed off a number of Spanish clubs who tried to make similar signings on the same basis, namely that the Argentinian season was not coterminous with that of those in Europe. One law for them....

So how about us? Well things are looking, if not exactly marvellous, well a little more rosy than they were at the start of the month. TS Eliot may have banged on about what a cruel month April is (clearly there was someone that never had the joys of having to endure the long wait until January payday or the seemingly interminable wait for the fixtures to come out in June), but so far it's a month that has been ok for us. The impressive performance up the road at Goodison was followed by a morale-boosting victory against Sunderland whose boss predictably moaned about the refereeing whilst ignoring the fact that, but for said referee, his side would probably been 3-0 down well before he had anything to moan about.

Injuries, well there are still a few. Tomkins, Collison and Ilunga are all most unlikely to appear. Though he made a most-welcome reappearance in a midweek reserve match, it's far too early for Luis Boa Morte to join the first team squad as yet. However, the fact that LBM is closer to a first team appearance than Kieron Dyer probably says something or other. Benni McCarthy isn't showing up on any of the usual lists and therefore might be about to make the squad. Similarly Mido, who was absent with a virus last time out (something he ate perhaps?), should also be about to challenge Cole and Ilan for a starting place.

Scott Parker will be missing of course, thanks to the appalling standard of refereeing in this country which has left him suspended, this being the second of a two match ban. Mark Noble, in line to make his 100th top flight appearance, had a fine match last week and it often seems to be the case that he has his better matches when Parker is away.

Ok it's time for a reality check here. September 1963 was the last time we got maximum points at Anfield (two in those days). I was two years old at the time. For all their indifferent form, at home Liverpool are a different prospect and they've won 5 and drawn 1 of the last six there. There's the traditional refereeing advantage that they enjoy at home – though for a while it's usually been a case of officials being unnerved by the deathly silence that has been the rule rather than the exception at Anfield in recent years. In short, history and home form should be against us getting much out of this one.

However, the draw at Everton showed that going into matches with some sort of positive mental attitude can get results. It's just a shame that we didn't go into the match at Old Trafford with the same “give it a go” mentality. The last two games will have done everyone the power of good – a recent chat with a (non-playing staff) club employee remarked on how the mood at Chadwell Heath had lightened since Goodison. So I'm really going to stick my neck out here. If we go for this one in the manner of Imran Khan's famous “cornered tigers” we could pull off a shock so I'll go for an odds-busting 2-1 win based on absolutely no logic whatsoever other than one day I'll be right so why not now?!

Enjoy the game!

Last Season: 0-0 - Craig Bellamy and Carlton Cole both missed chances to gain a memorable win, though it was the fine defensive performance that caught the eye.

Danger Man: Steve Gerrard - If you think about tackling he will dive and score from the resulting free-kick. If you don't he'll score anyway.

Referee: Peter Walton – Last seen by us having an erratic match in our 0-0 draw at home to Blackburn. If nothing else he should be suspended for using the word “stakeholder” on his profile page on the referees' official website. He'll be doing that thing with his fingers to signify inverted commas next.

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.

Your Comments

by Tell it how it is Charley
08:18AM 18th Apr 2010
''I thought at Man U they did try a positive 4-4-2, just certain players didn't turn up. Diamanti, who has got no awareness of defensive midfield participation. It's bloody dificult. Di Silva looks to be as much of a liability as Tomkins. You still have players making awful back passes (Kovac against Sunderland) Everton was totally amazing in the second half because we actually saw players running and showing pace. You're only likely to score from open play using your midfield if you have these qualities. When you're playing 4-5-1 as appears the case lately you need midfielders with injected pace.''

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