West Ham United-Liverpool Preview
Liverpool will be aiming to further strengthen their top four status when they welcome West Ham United to Anfield on Saturday.
Jurgen Klopp's Reds (15-9-3) go into the latest matchday occupying third position in the Premier League table and one of the four Champions League qualification berths. And with fourth-place Chelsea and second-place Manchester United playing each other and Arsenal facing a postponed midweek match against runaway league leaders Manchester City, this weekend offers Liverpool a terrific opportunity to put themselves in an even stronger position to achieve one of their primary aims of the season.
If Liverpool do qualify for the Champions League then they will largely have forward Mohamed Salah to thank.
The Egyptian arrived at Anfield in the summer off the back of two impressive campaigns with Roma in Italy's Serie A. But few could have predicted quite the impact Salah would have at his new club.
Salah's tally of 22 Premier League goals is already seven more than he has managed in any other league season in his career, and sees him lie just one goal behind Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane in the list of top scorers. According to the 25-year-old, the secret to his goalscoring success has been a subtle shift in position since his move to Liverpool - something that he credits his manager.
"With the boss here, I play a little bit closer to the goal, more so than at any other club or more than any of my other coaches have asked me to, so I am always in front of the goal to give me the opportunity to score," Salah said. "The manager is always telling me to stay close to the goal in training."
Salah will again be one of the major goal threats for Liverpool this weekend, although Sadio Mane's hat-trick in the club's most recent game - a 5-0 hammering of Porto in the Champions League last week - will offer a timely reminder to West Ham (7-9-11) that there are plenty of threats in this Liverpool side.
Not that the Hammers are likely to need reminding, having been on the end of a 4-1 hammering against Klopp's team at the London Stadium back in November, with Salah scoring twice in that game.
West Ham have, however, enjoyed far better fortunes on their recent trips to Anfield, drawing two and winning one of their last three matches at the ground in all competitions. And they will make the journey to Merseyside with one of the Premier League's other most in-form players in their ranks.
Marko Arnautovic has scored seven goals and produced three assists in his last nine Premier League appearances, and the West Ham attacker says he's relishing the opportunity to get stuck in Liverpool's occasionally leaky back-line.
"I'm a football player and I have respect for every opponent, every defender and every team, but I'm not afraid of anyone and I'm not afraid to take them on and to make things happen," Arnautovic told the official West Ham website.
"I played at Anfield twice when I was with Stoke and it's a hard place to go, we all know that Liverpool is one of the best teams in the Premier League. But I think we have also done well in the last few games and you can always make something happen.
"It's going to be hard, but they are all hard and we will go there and try to take something out of the game."
Arnautovic could lead the line for West Ham in the absence of the injured Andy Carroll, while the Hammers are also missing influential midfielder Manuel Lanzini. Edimilson Fernandes and Nathan Holland face late fitness tests.
Liverpool's only injury concerns surround young striker Rhian Brewster, who is unavailable with an ankle injury, and reserve goalkeeper Adam Bogdan, who has returned to training following a lengthy lay-off with a cruciate ligament injury.
Updated February 22, 2018