Tactically speaking - Liverpool

Tactically speaking

West Ham United take on leaders Liverpool in what promises to be a mouth-watering Sunday afternoon showdown at a sold out Boleyn Ground.

With millions of supporters also set to tune in around the world to watch the game on television, there will be huge interest as the Hammers try to knock the Reds from their perch.

The Official Website has teamed up with WhoScored.com to give fans an insight into what to look out for on the pitch.

West Ham United

Andy Carroll

Ahead of West Ham's game against league leaders Liverpool this weekend, football statistics website WhoScored.com have previewed the Premier League fixture.

When the two teams met earlier this season at Anfield, Liverpool ran out 4-1 winners thanks to goals from Mamadou Sakho, two from Luis Suarez and an own-goal from Guy Demel. West Ham's consolation was a Martin Skrtel own-goal.

Liverpool have won their last eight league games, the longest run of its kind in Europe's top five leagues, and are dreaming of securing their first top-flight title since 1990. However, they travel to the Boleyn Ground to face a West Ham side that go into the game on the back of two 2-1 victories against Hull City and Sunderland respectively.

West Ham are currently eleventh in the table on 37 points from 32 games played, while Liverpool have collected 71.

The Reds may have secured a 4-1 win over the Hammers when the two teams met at Anfield earlier in the season, but West Ham were unable to call upon the services of star striker Andy Carroll in the loss. The frontman was injured for the meeting, though he is expected to play a starring role for the east London outfit in Sunday's late kick-off.

The welcome of Liverpool will be the first time Carroll has come up against the Merseysiders since departing for West Ham and he will be keen to make an impression against his former employers. The striker turned out a Man of the Match performance against Sunderland on Monday, netting the opener to land him a WhoScored.com rating of 8.7, and he will be looking to turn in a similar display against Brendan Rodgers' side.

His performance at the Stadium of Light means only James Tomkins (7.22) has a better average rating than him (7.21) for West Ham this term and the opportunity is there for him to improve this figure on Sunday. While much has been made of Liverpool's potent attack, their defence has been error-prone this term and the Hammers will hope to capitalise on this.

As such, Liverpool have developed a statistically calculated WhoScored.com weakness of 'stopping opponents from creating chances'. With Carroll boasting strengths of 'aerial duels' and 'key passes', he can bring others into play should the striker be picked out by those supporting him, thus increasing the chance of West Ham finding the back of the net.

In nine league appearances, Carroll has scored twice from the 26 shots he has unleashed and assisted four other goals. At the other end of the pitch, Carroll has also been valuable, making 15 clearances and six tackles to help out his defenders.

Following his return from suspension, Carroll has undoubtedly impressed, playing a key role in West Ham's rise up the table. A win over Liverpool over Sunday afternoon would see West Ham reach the sought-after 40-point mark.

His ability to provide for his teammates and find the net means Carroll will be a handful for Liverpool's defence on Sunday as he looks to add to his tally.

*WhoScored.com is a website and one of the fastest growing in the sports industry, specialising in the in-depth analysis of detailed football data. Follow @WhoScored on Twitter.


Probable starting XI


Johnson  Skrtel  Agger  Flanagan

Henderson  Gerrard  Allen

Sterling  Suarez  Sturridge

Liverpool are arguably playing the best and most-effective football in the Barclays Premier League at present.

Under manager Brendan Rodgers, the Reds are ripping teams to shreds with their combination of accurate passing, searing pace and individual ability.

While Liverpool are conceding - 39 in 32 matches - nobody is scoring as frequently as Rodgers' men, not even the prolific Manchester City.

It should come as no surprise that Liverpool players have unleashed more shots on target and embarked on more dribbles than those of any other Barclays Premier League side.

At the back, while they may ship a few goals, the defenders put in more tackles on average - 22.5 per game - than those of any other team.

It is going forward that Liverpool do their work, however, and in Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge Rodgers possesses the division's most-potent strikeforce.

While Liverpool line up in a 4-3-3 formation on paper, Suarez, Sturridge and fellow forward Raheem Sterling inter-change positions regularly, while the midfield three - most likely Steven Gerrard holding behind Jordan Henderson and either Joe Allen or Philippe Coutinho - are also fluid in their movement.

The winners of their previous eight league matches, Liverpool have a list of strengths as long as the queue outside the Anfield ticket office these days!

Put simply, Liverpool can score from virtually any position - direct free-kicks, open play, lightning-quick counter-attacks, set pieces, through balls, long-range shots and pieces of individual skill.

While Suarez and Sturridge have taken the headlines for combining to score 49 of Liverpool's 88 league goals so far, Gerrard has managed eleven from his new withdrawn role in central midfield.

Sterling and centre-back Martin Skrtel have weighed in with six goals each, while midfielders Henderson and Coutinho have bagged four apiece.

If you are going to stop Liverpool, you need to do it before half-time. The fast-starting Reds have bagged 54 goals in the opening 45 minutes of matches this season - 20 more than second-place Manchester City and 40 more than West Ham United.

When it comes to creating chances, Liverpool's list of assist leaders perhaps gives a more accurate reflection of the attacking strength of Rodgers' team.

The famous three of Suarez, Sturridge and Gerrard have also directly created a staggering 27 goals between them, while Henderson's outstanding contribution is highlighted by seven assists of his own.

System-wise, Liverpool have favoured a 4-3-3 formation this term, with Gerrard anchoring in front of a flat back-four.

The full-backs bomb forward whenever the opportunity presents itself, while Suarez, Sterling and Sturridge pull opposition defenders all over the place with their movement.

Even more impressively, Rodgers has managed to overcome the injury and suspension problems affecting his talented squad.

Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet - a fine shot-stopper and neat and tidy distributor of the ball - and Henderson - a revelation under Rodgers' system - have started all 32 league matches.

However, the likes of defenders Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger and Jose Enrique and Brazilian midfielder Lucas have all endured lengthy visits to the treatment room this term.

Suarez, of course, missed the opening five league matches due to his suspension for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic last season, yet he is still nailed-on to finish as the Barclays Premier League's leading goalscorer.

To give West Ham hope of derailing the Liverpool express this afternoon, the Reds do have a definite weakness in defence, where individual errors and injuries have allowed teams to create chances against the leaders.

Homegrown full-backJon Flanagan, French imports Aly Cissokho and Mamadou Sakho and veteran Ivory Coast centre-back Kolo Toure have all featured semi-regularly, adding uncertainty that the hosts will hope to exploit today.

Whether or not they can score enough goals to outshoot the in-form Reds is another story.