Liverpool travel to East London on Sunday, prepared to finish the Premier League weekend in first once again after a solid win over West Ham.
The Reds fared well in the reverse fixture in December, running out 4-1 winners, with Luis Suárez scoring two. West Ham’s only goal came courtesy of an own goal from Martin Skrtel.
But the Irons haven’t exactly been the easiest of opponents lately. A three game losing streak had them fretting once more, but back-to-back 2-1 victories have moved West Ham up into 11th, just three points shy of the magical 40-point mark. Sam Allardyce would certainly love to reach it at Liverpool’s expense.
Not if Brendan Rodgers has anything to say about it, however. Liverpool will come up against former Red Andy Carroll, who moved to West Ham after being told he did not feature in Rodgers plans. Carroll, still hoping for a place on the plane to Brazil, would probably like nothing more to impress Roy Hodgson while proving his former manager wrong.
Rodgers is not afraid. While he’s admitted that Liverpool did have a problem this season dealing with physical opponents, he believes his players have learned, and that the defense no longer has trouble with strong center forwards.
“There’s no doubt that West Ham’s strength is to be direct, get it up, in and around the box, have runners into the box and from corners,” Rodgers said. “And you saw big Andy the other night score a good header from a corner [against Sunderland] but that is what we have to cope with. We’ve done it before and I’m sure we can do it again.”
Rodgers went on to reference Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke, saying that last year his side managed to restrict the Belgian’s movement, putting two men on him to ensure Benteke did not have a free run at the ball.
Liverpool fans might be forgiven for wondering just what game Rodgers was referencing, as Benteke did score in Villa’s loss to Liverpool last March. They’ll be hoping the manager has refined his strategies and the defense really does know how to handle a physical side. Because with Chelsea just two points behind and Manchester City lurking just a point behind the Blues – and still with two games in hand – Liverpool’s title dreams are still far from being realized.