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West Ham United v Liverpool

Filed: Monday, 8th February 2016
By: Preview Percy

We're not saying Preview Percy is old but (part 94): He can remember the last time a Man Utd FA Cup tie WASN'T selected for live tv. It may be hard to believe but he has actual proof of a preview even worse than his. Don't believe us? Read on......

What? Liverpool? Again? Ok if one must. Extra time and penalties must. FA Cup 4th round replay. 7:45pm kick-off on Tuesday. Extra time and penalties available in the event of a draw. Best check those night bus timetables then.

Liverpool then. Still providing comedy gold every time you look at them. Take last weekend. They go 2-0 up at home to a Sunderland team who, in all probability, will be joining Villa through the exit door come May. On 77 minutes their supporters get all “right-on” at the increase in the cost of a couple of hundred tickets in their new stand to £77 next season, and a quarter of them walk out. Whereupon Mignolet has a ‘mare and a typically decent finish from Defoe sees them drop points, much to the amusement of everybody outside Newcastle. Funnily enough I don’t recall too many of them protesting back in the 80’s when their club were successfully campaigning for the change in rules that used to split gate money between clubs for league matches but there you go.

They were without their manager at the weekend. Jurgen Klopp went and caught appendicitis, meaning that there was nobody to lead the traditional joyous end of match celebrations that usually accompany a disappointing home draw against a relegation-threatened outfit.

In Klippety’s absence the team was in the hands of his coaching staff, messrs Buvac, Krawietz, Lijnders and Achterberg (wasn’t that the original line-up of a-Ha?). However, Klopp himself was fit enough to take the pre-match press conference, though he wasn’t particularly forthcoming either on the subject of who would be playing or on the matter of how he would stop their defenders walking out on 77 minutes to join their supporters, as happened on Saturday.

It was a much-changed team that we faced up at Anfield the other week when they brought in a few of the kids, Whether or not they will do the same this time I suppose will depend on their sense of priorities. They obviously want to play in Europe next season and, despite the god-awful ordinariness of their football, there are still four potential paths to qualification. Firstly, there’s the league. Well they’re a bit off the pace there, though there’s a long way to go. Then they have the League Cup, the final of which they will contest with Man City at the end of the month. That’s probably their quickest route abroad. Thirdly there’s the FA Cup of course and finally there’s the Thursday Night League. Now that’s an interesting one. In the past nobody has really taken it seriously until the later stages. However, nowadays the winner gets to play in the so-called Champions League the next season. For a bit. You may see the knockout stages of that one involving lots more of the senior players.

The one player that is a bit of concern in these parts is Sturridge. They seem to rely on him one hellova lot which, given that his injury record is on a par with that of Carroll, must be a major worry for Klippety and his staff. What worries me is that he seems to have a habit of making injury comebacks against us and scoring in them. So the fact that he is edging towards another comeback, having made it as far as the racing car seats for the Sunderland match is one that, like the sight of Lukaku in the Everton line up, puts one slightly on edge. Especially as he was specifically mentioned as having “looked good in training” during the one bit of their press conference that didn’t concentrate on either surgery or tickets.

Other than Sturridge, they have doubts about Loveren and Allen, both of whom picked up injuries in the first half of the Sunderland draw, whilst Origi and Coutinho will both be facing injury tests so we may well be facing a youngster or two irrespective of the prioritisation process.

And so to us. Saturday? Disappointing. It was one of those slow starts that cost us. In an odd way we were probably playing a bit better when it was 11 v 11 – we finished the first half the stronger of the two sides and, if we’d had a set of competent officials (a long shot admittedly) we’d have probably gone in at 1-1 with Noble converting the penalty due when Valencia was clipped in the box having had more contact from the defender than Man Utd get in a season’s worth of spot kicks.

The sending off removed the conundrum that Southampton were facing as to “stick or twist” and, with Payet and Valencia both choosing the evening to have off-days we didn’t have the guile or nous to break them down. It’s days like these that you need the likes of Lanzini to relieve some of the creative burden on the admirable Payet. Not long now guys.

Talking of Southampton it was good to see a quarter of their fans supporting the Liverpool walkout, though somebody ought to have made it clear to them that the walkout was supposed to have occurred on 77 minutes rather than before the start of the game. That must have been the emptiest Premier League ground in the country on Saturday, given that Sunderland were actually away. Now bearing in mind I mis-spent a lot of my youth in Hampshire I know just how dull Southampton is on a Saturday night (pretty much the same as it is on a Monday) so the fact that even those dubious charms were deemed by the locals to be preferable to watching their football side says a lot. Either that or many locals didn’t feel up to spending two hours in the company of the Muppet cast that makes up their support, something I could easily sympathise with.

We didn’t really see too much of new-boy Eminike, though he did get into one promising position only to head wide. Early days and all that. This being a cup match may see him more involved, though I’d expect Carroll to start this one. Tomkins pulled up lame with what looked like a calf muscle problem and, with Byram cup-tied, we will probably see another runout for Joey O’Brien, whose return to availability has been fortuitously well-timed. The work-experience kid with the Harry Potter spectacles furnished me with this assessment of “young” Joey that appeared on the Independent’s website:

Filling in for James Tomkins, who suffered a calf injury at Southampton, O’Brien has some big shoes to fill and the pressure will be on. Bilić has backed the youngster, insisting he has what it takes to fill the void. His lack of experience could however leave West Ham’s right flank exposed with Anfield trio of Sturridge, Origi and playmaker Coutinho set to return. .

Youngster??? Lack of experience??? That would be the Joey O’Brien who turns 30 in just over a week then. And you thought MY previews were poorly-researched. At least I don’t do this for a living!

Sakho and Lanzini are listed as being available for the weekend – I’d expect that to be through the bench and, in any case, this tie is a smidgeon too early for them I’d wager.

As for goalkeeper it wouldn’t be the end of the world if Randolph were given another runout, his 3rd round appearance was a result of squad rotation and he may have played at Anfield even if Adrian hadn’t been playing happy families back in Seville.

Irrespective of whichever team they decide to field, let’s hope for a strong ref. In the first match Atkinson couldn’t have been more of a Homer had he changed his surname to Simpson by deed-poll. The continued unpunished assaults that led to Kouyate’s early withdrawal were carried on whenever “young” Joey O’Brien got the ball on the wing. Then here was the Caulker handball, the other Caulker handball and the bizarre suspension of the back-pass law all of which were features of a typical Anfield refereeing evening.

It would also be nice if the officials could clamp down on what is becoming an increasingly common tactic of trying to kick Payet out of the game – at least Clattenberg got that one right at the weekend. That might be a particular point for the officials to note should Flanagan, say, get a start.

Prediction? Well we have a habit of following up a disappointment with a better performance this season so, on that, basis, I’ll therefore be going for a home victory. The traditional £2.50 which I was going to put towards buying a new book of baby names for the Met Office (I mean Storm Imogen??? Come on..) will be taken to Winstones The Turf Accountants with a view to it being wagered on a 2-1 home win, possibly after extra time.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met At The Boleyn: Won 2-0 (January 2016) Blimey just how bad is your memory? Antonio started and finished the move that sent us 1-0 up. Carroll doubled the tally after the interval with a towering header from Noble’s cross. Noble then saved himself 5p by picking up a white plastic bag that had been blowing about the pitch, Rumours that Liverpool were considering offering Benteke as part of a swap deal for the bag were, of course, totally false – there were no signs of their having made their usual illegal approach for the bag.

Referee: Roger East Whereas we get Atkinson five or six times a season, this is only the third time we’ve seen this particular official in the last three seasons. The other two matches were a 3-2 win over Cardiff in the League Cup and a 1-1 draw against Stoke last April as our season ground slowly to its tortuous conclusion.

Danger Man: Daniel Sturridge – assuming he plays. Otherwise, if he plays, Jon Flanagan might be a cause of physical danger to the likes of Payet. See also Coutinho if he plays. Honestly I don’t know how they expect me to do a “Danger Man” piece if they can’t make their minds up who is playing.

Irritating Celebrity Supporter of The Week: Given that, by their very nature, ALL Liverpool supporters are irritating by default, irrespective of their celebrity status, it’s never that difficult to find a candidate amongst the hoardes of celeb glory-hunters now regretting going public as to which club they “support”. This week one has plumped for Elvis Costello. Like the world needs another pontificating rock star telling us not to eat meat, and his take on “Good Year For The Roses” achieved the seemingly impossible task of making a Country & Western dirge sound even worse.

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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