Two sides scoring goals for fun meet at the London Stadium for an intriguing Premier League contest on Wednesday night, as West Ham United play host to Liverpool.
David Moyes’s team ran riot in a 4-0 win over Bournemouth at the weekend, while their Merseyside counterparts scraped by Nottingham Forest in a five-goal Anfield thriller.
Given the seven-goal spectacular that unfolded in Newcastle United’s drubbing of Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, West Ham’s demolition job of Bournemouth went under the radar somewhat, but it did not make the three points any less vital for the goal-happy Hammers.
A pair of headers from Michail Antonio and Lucas Paqueta before a fine Declan Rice finish put the game to bed before the break, and channelling his inner Olivier Giroud and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Pablo Fornals saved the best for last with a sumptuous scorpion kick at the Vitality Stadium.
Having also thrashed Gent 5-2 on aggregate to reach the Europa Conference League semi-finals – where they will take on Eredivisie powerhouses AZ Alkmaar – things are starting to look up for the Hammers, who are looking up the table themselves as they occupy 13th place in the rankings before Tuesday’s games kick off.
While having a game in hand on most of their relegation rivals, West Ham are only six points clear of the drop zone and are not home and dry just yet, but Moyes’s side have certainly kicked into gear at a crucial time, going unbeaten in their last five games in all tournaments and losing just one of their last 10.
From being humbled 5-1 by Newcastle to storming back in a 2-2 draw with league leaders Arsenal at home, West Ham have scored in all of their top-flight games at the London Stadium in 2023, but only Fulham have been beaten in the hosts’ last 20 games against top-half sides.
Twice Liverpool went ahead against Forest through Diogo Jota – who made it back-to-back braces in the top flight – and twice they were pegged back, as Neco Williams returned to haunt his old club before Morgan Gibbs-White’s terrific acrobatic volley into the bottom corner.
However, set-piece defending was neither side’s forte on the day, and Liverpool restored their slender lead through Mohamed Salah’s landmark 183rd goal for the club – taking him level with Robbie Fowler in sixth place in the Reds’ all-time charts – from a free kick, and Forest could not respond a third time.
Jurgen Klopp’s rearguard worries are very much still alive, but with the Reds’ attack firing on all cylinders, Liverpool have surged back into European contention in seventh place in the table, albeit nine points behind Manchester United – who have a game in hand – in the final Champions League position.
Brighton & Hove Albion, who have played two fewer matches, are also breathing down Liverpool’s necks, but Klopp has every reason to shout about his side scoring 11 goals in their last three Premier League matches, although a record of two wins from their last nine top-flight contests on the road makes for grim reading.
Furthermore, Liverpool have only prevailed against Tottenham Hotspur in all of their away trips to capital clubs this term, and their visit to the London Stadium last season ended in a 3-2 defeat, but they have since recorded a pair of 1-0 wins over West Ham in front of the ardent Anfield faithful.
There has been little movement in the West Ham infirmary lately, and Moyes should only be working without misfiring striker Gianluca Scamacca as the Italian recovers from knee surgery – the Hammers boss admitted that he knew little about what exactly the procedure entailed, though.
Angelo Ogbonna was passed fit to make the bench against Bournemouth after shaking off a back problem, which he sustained in the first leg against Gent, and Moyes should see no reason to disrupt the harmony of a winning team, forcing ex-Liverpool man Danny Ings to accept a substitute role against his former club.
However, Fornals should certainly give Moyes food for thought in the final third following his sublime finish against Bournemouth, and the Spaniard enjoys playing Liverpool more than any other Premier League team, having struck three goals against them in the past.
As for Liverpool, Klopp revealed before the win over Forest that Roberto Firmino would miss the Reds’ next three games with a muscular problem, joining Naby Keita (muscle) Stefan Bajcetic (adductor) and Calvin Ramsay (knee) on the sidelines.
The Reds boss will therefore be working with the same group of players from the nervy win over Forest, and he is spoiled for choice up top despite Firmino’s absence, as Darwin Nunez fights to earn a recall to the firing line.
The Uruguayan may get his wish in place of Cody Gakpo, as Klopp should be in no position to demote Jota, who could now become the first Liverpool player to score three successive Premier League braces since Luis Suarez in 2013.
West Ham United possible starting lineup:
Fabianski; Coufal, Zouma, Aguerd, Cresswell; Soucek, Rice, Paqueta; Bowen, Antonio, Benrahma
Liverpool possible starting lineup:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Jones, Fabinho, Henderson; Salah, Nunez, Jota