As opening day fixtures go, a trip to Anfield to face Liverpool, last year’s Champions League finalists, isn’t the easiest for West Ham.
Manuel Pellegrini’s first competitive game in charge will see him come up against Jurgen Klopp and his refreshed squad.
It’s not only Liverpool who have strengthened this summer though. West Ham made some very encouraging moves too and they’ll go into Sunday’s clash knowing that whilst it will be a tough game, they definitely have a chance of pulling off an upset.
Ahead of the game, I spoke to the Read Network’s resident Liverpool fan Ste Hoare to get his view on the Reds, the Hammers and the upcoming match.
Liverpool spent big money this summer, are you happy with the business they did?
It’d be hard not to be, really! We needed a new goalkeeper; we simply couldn’t continue with Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius, and although Alisson cost a lot, it was a fee we really had to pay to get the man we wanted. Fabinho will add some solidity to a midfield that was overrun a few times last season, whilst Naby Keita gives us the energy and drive needed to support our electric front three. Xherdan Shaqiri provides decent cover and if his pre-season is anything to go by, he’ll be a bargain! I would have liked one more attacking player, ala Nabil Fekir, and a centre-back, but on the whole, we’ve had a very good summer.
What did you make of West Ham’s summer?
I’ve been very impressed. Getting both Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko is very positive, and I think that Lukasz Fabianski will be an upgrade too. The only issue is getting all of the new players to gel together under a new manager. It might take a bit of time for it all to click, but there is some genuine quality in the West Ham squad now.
Looking ahead to the game, what are you expecting from Liverpool and West Ham?
On West Ham first – I have no idea! There’s been so much change that it’s hard to know exactly what they’re going to do, which could be an advantage for them. As for Liverpool, we won’t change. We’ll be full of aggression and pace and we will look to capitalise on any loose touches or errors. Added to that, we will attack with such ferocity so West Ham will need to defend really well to keep us out.
How many of your new players do you think we’ll see?
There’s a very, very good chance that all four will get some minutes. Alisson, Fabinho and Keita will all start. Shaqiri will be on the bench but he’s likely to come on at some point. His cameos in pre-season have been really good and Klopp will be hoping for more of the same if he is introduced.
From a Liverpool perspective, who should West Ham fans be most concerned about facing?
Our front three. It’s an easy and obvious answer but it’s easy and obvious for a reason. Sadio Mane has looked really good in pre-season, whilst Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah have proven how talented they are. If those three play to their best, there isn’t a side in the country who can stop them.
Which Hammers players most concern you?
Anderson is a good player so he’ll be a threat and Marko Arnautovic is someone we need to pay attention to. Although we won quite comfortably the last time we played West Ham, he did cause us a few issues and he was unlucky not to score. We’ve got a few issues in terms of injuries at the back so he could capitalise on those if we aren’t on our game.
Finally, care to predict the score?
I think we’ll just have too much for West Ham. Even though it’s only pre-season, we’ve looked very dangerous in recent friendlies and even though we’ve not played amazingly well, we’ve created plenty of chances and if we continue in that way, we have three forwards who will put the ball in the back of the net, so I’ll say 3-1 to Liverpool.