Liverpool-West Ham United Preview
LONDON (SE) - Liverpool will be without suspended leading scorer Luis Suarez on Sunday when they play an in-form West Ham side at Upton Park.
The Merseysiders, who have lost just once in 10 league matches, secured a place in the Europa League last 32 on Thursday when they won 1-0 away to Serie A side Udinese. Their recent form has been impressive but they may struggle to break down a gritty West Ham defence with Suarez, who has 10 goals in 15 league matches, banned after amassing five yellow cards.
Liverpool's preparations for the West Ham match were disrupted after they were forced to stay in Italy until Friday morning because of a technical problem with their aircraft. Manager Brendan Rodgers, however, remained in a buoyant mood ahead of the trip to east London.
"I think our on-going performances will give us confidence going into this game," Rodgers told the Liverpool club website. "The players are feeling confident all the time. Our last couple of victories have been narrow ones, but in those games we could have been a little more clinical and won by more.
"The most important thing is that we are winning games and I believe that as the season goes on, we'll become more clinical and see improvements in our finishing at the top end of the field. We know West Ham will be a tough game. They got a fantastic result in their last game against Chelsea and Sam (Allardyce) has done very, very well in getting them promoted and he's made them very difficult to beat. We'll arrive at West Ham with great confidence. The nature of our game is getting better all the time."
West Ham (6-4-5) rallied from a goal down to beat third-place Chelsea 3-1 at home last weekend to continue a fine run of form that has seen them rise to eighth in the Premier League with 22 points after 15 games. Liverpool (4-7-4) are three points and three places below the Hammers.
Hammers boss Sam Allardyce has noted Liverpool's recent improvement under Rodgers, but also welcomed the absence of the Uruguayan striker.
"They now have a very ambitious manager who will try to take them forward to the next level.," Allardyce told the West Ham club website. "Brendan Rodgers is in the infancy of his reign and is just starting to get his team playing and the results that he wants. I think it is more about his results than the way his team is playing because it is a results-business that we're in.
"I think it'll be a good game. We've looked at the situation and from our point of view we're pleased that Luis Suarez is not playing because he has been an outstanding centre forward in the Premier League this season. Without him, they are not quite as big of a goal-scoring force as they would be with him, so we want to take advantage of that on Sunday."
West Ham striker Andy Carroll is likely to be out for two months with a knee injury but would not have been able to face his parent club Liverpool anyway due to the terms of his loan deal.
Another of the Hammers' on-loan players, midfielder Yossi Benayoun, returns to the squad after being ineligible to play against Chelsea.
Reds captain Steven Gerrard, who has five goals in 15 career league games against West Ham, should return after missing the Udinese match due to illness.
Liverpool have dominated this fixture, winning 65 of 123 all-time meetings. West Ham has just 24 wins and the sides have drawn 34 times in a fixture that was first played in January 1901, a 1-0 Liverpool away win in the intermediate round of the FA Cup.