Allen Hamilton

What: English Premier League
Who: West Ham United (19th; 25 points) vs Liverpool (6th; 39 points)
When: Sunday 27th February, 2011, at 13:30 UK time
Where: Upton Park, London, England

A Grant Inspired Revival?

West Ham toyed with the idea of replacing Avram Grant with former Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill, but when the news leaked, the Northern Irishman decided he did not want the job, leaving the Israeli to struggle on. But, it does seem the players are playing for Grant and that gives the Hammers a fighting chance of staying up.

More than that though, the former Chelsea boss has been backed in the transfer market, bringing in striker Demba Ba from Hoffenheim, and this after the Senegal star had failed a medical at Stoke City. Ba appears to understand he owes West Ham for taking a chance and giving him the opportunity to live his Premier League dream. The signs are encouraging, with the striker leading a comeback away to West Brom in their last Premier League game by scoring a brace that helped grab a 3-3 draw from a game Grant’s men were losing 3-0.

The club has also been boosted by the decision to hand them the Olympic Stadium following the completion of the 2012 London Olympic Games. It is something midfielder Scott Parker regards as a positive, while warning his team-mates to remember that Premier League survival is the name of the game. "It is a chance to move on, keep improving. For now though, obviously we are in the middle of a season and the main focus is on keeping the club in the Premier League." Combined with a 5-1 win over Burnley in the FA Cup, the past few weeks have held nothing but positives for The Hammers. But will that continue against Liverpool?

Keeping King Kenny’s Momentum Going

Victory away to Chelsea, on Fernando Torres’ Blues debut three weeks ago, continued the momentum that Liverpool had built up under Kenny Dalglish. But since that superb win at Stamford Bridge, Dalglish’s Liverpool have stalled. A 1-1 draw at home to Wigan was two points dropped, while a midweek 0-0 affair at Sparta Prague in the Europa League Round of 32 saw winning momentum fail to be regained. Despite beating the Czech side 1-0 this week, Liverpool had to toil for the narrow victory, suggesting there remains much work for Dalglish to do.

It is essential for Liverpool that they score three points here. While a spot in the top four, some eight points out of reach, looks a somewhat unrealistic target, overhauling Chelsea for fifth place is a more achieveable goal, especially with the Stamford Bridge side having two contests against league leaders Manchester United remaining. And how Liverpool would rejoice if they could finish above Torres’ Chelsea.

A win away to relegation battlers West Ham therefore is crucial, but with a midweek European match perhaps taking its toll, players like the fresh Luis Suarez, will need to stand up, something defender Martin Kelly is sure will happen. "There is a lot to come from Luis", said Kelly. "He gives everything. The best thing is he’s 100% committed and at a club like this that’s what you need to be, and he shows that commitment for the full 90 minutes." West Ham, although not a glamour game for the Reds, is an acid test of their revival under Dalglish. Win and the upwards trend continues. Lose or draw and sixth may be the height of this season’s ambition.


Recent form

West Ham:
West Ham 0-1 Birmingham City (06/02; Premier League)
West Brom 3-3 West Ham (12/02; Premier League)
West Ham 5-1 Burnley (21/02; FA Cup)

Liverpool 1-1 Wigan Athletic (12/02; Premier League)
Sparta Prague 0-0 Liverpool (17/02; Europa League)
Liverpool 1-0 Sparta Prague (24/02; Europa League)

Key absences

West Ham: Victor Obinna (doubt); Robbie Keane; Matthew Upson; Kieron Dyer; Jack Collison; Junior Stanislas

Daniel Agger (doubt); Andy Carroll (doubt); Steven Gerrard (doubt); Glen Johnson (doubt); Martin Kelly (doubt); Fabio Aurelio, Jonjo Shelvey

Players to watch

West Ham – Demba Ba: The powerful Senegal striker could be something of a secret weapon here and has it within his power to give the Liverpool defence a torrid afternoon. Having burst onto the scene with Hoffenheim, Ba quickly picked up a whole host of admirers across Europe. Always on the move on the pitch, always amongst the goals, the striker may be the man to shoot West Ham out of the drop zone.

Liverpool – Raul Meireles: The signing of the Portuguese midfielder may well be remembered as the one decision Roy Hodgson got right in his time at Anfield. Yet where Hodgson often deployed the former FC Porto man on the right of midfield, Dalglish is using his talents effectively in the centre and reaping the benefits. Meireles is ever dangerous, with a rasping shot and can be a match-winner for the Reds.

Match Prediction

West Ham have improved over the past few weeks, while Liverpool are in danger of losing the momentum built up during Dalglish’s first few games in charge. A game that could be crucial for both sides, it should be a tight contest, with the opening exchanges setting the tone. A draw seems about right here. West Ham 1-1 Liverpool.

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