Slaven Bilic may be on borrowed time as his struggling West Ham United outfit takes on Liverpool at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday night.
West Ham are sitting 16th with only nine points to their name after 10 games. On the back of a stirring come from behind League Cup win over Tottenham Hotspur in midweek they were brought back to earth with a thud.
The Hammers dropped a two-goal lead late to Crystal Palace on the weekend, which has resulted in the pressure significantly ramping up on their Croatian manager, believed to be on borrowed time.
They welcome Liverpool, who are fresh off victories over Huddersfield Town and NK Maribor in the Champions League, looking to close the gap on their top four rivals. Jurgen Klopp’s men have also faced pressure of their own, but have seemed to show a new vigour over the past week.
A win over the Hammers could put them on level points with fourth-placed Chelsea and fifth-placed Arsenal.
Key Battle – Javier Hernandez vs Liverpool’s defence
The man carrying the hopes of Hammers fans around the globe faces the maligned duo in the heart of the Liverpool defence.
Chicharito was back on the scoresheet last week as he slammed home his fourth goal of the season. If West Ham are going to be any chance against Liverpool, the tricky Mexican must be at his best to take advantage of the Reds’s weak defence, which has been well below par this season.
Joel Matip is expected to be partnered by a returning Dejan Lovren, who has been out with a thigh injury. If the Croatian is not passed fit, Ragnar Klavan will continue in the heart of defence as they look to stem the influence of West Ham’s x-factor.
West Ham are set to be without Jose Fonte, who went off hurt against Palace. He joins Winston Reid on the sidelines but they are set to welcome back James Collins after a long lay-off with injury. Declan Rice remains a chance for an opportunity if Collins is not fit to start. Pablo Zabaleta also misses due to accumulating his fifth yellow card of the season.
West Ham United Expected XI (4-4-2): Hart (GK); Ogbonna, Kouyate, Rice, Antonio; Fernandez, Lanzini, Noble, Cresswell; Ayew, Hernandez.
Liverpool will still be without Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana as they will not return before the international break. Phillipe Coutinho is still doubtful to line up as is Lovren. Both failed to line up against Maribor in midweek. Georginio Wijnaldum is also under an injury cloud after he hobbled off early against Maribor.
Liverpool Expected XI (4-3-3): Mignolet (GK); Gomez, Matip, Klavan, Moreno; Can, Henderson, Milner; Salah, Sturridge, Firmino.
Liverpool have the wood over the Hammers as they have defeated them a total of 71 times in all competitions. West Ham have only beat Liverpool 28 times and both sides have drawn 36 since 1901.
In their most recent encounter last season, Liverpool defeated the Irons 4-0 at the Olympic Stadium. It was a drubbing as Daniel Sturridge opened the scoring before Coutinho bagged a brace after the break to put the game beyond doubt. Divock Origi also got on the scoreboard late to round out the victory.
Liverpool have got themselves back into some form and three points for is imperative heading into the international break. With Chelsea playing Manchester United and Arsenal facing Manchester City, this is the chance for Liverpool to close the gap at the top.
This could be Bilic’s last match as coach for West Ham and losing by a big margin may spell the end of the Croatian’s reign in London. The Hammers need to show the same heart that got them an unlikely win over Spurs last week, but the chances of a win are minimal.
West Ham United 1 Liverpool 3