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Why West Ham could beat Liverpool this weekend for the first time since 2016

It’s been a little while since West Ham last got the better of Liverpool.

You need to go back to February 2016, during Jurgen Klopp’s first season in charge, and a fourth round FA Cup replay at Upton Park.

That night saw Angelo Ogbonna head home West Ham’s winning goal in the very last minute of extra time after Michail Antonio and Philippe Coutinho were earlier on target.

West Ham last got the better of Liverpool when Angelo Ogbonna scored the extra time winner in an FA Cup fourth round replay at Upton Park in 2016 

Ogbonna celebrates his late winner in 2016 but it's been a tale of woe for West Ham since

Ogbonna celebrates his late winner in 2016 but it’s been a tale of woe for West Ham since

Since then it’s largely been a tale of woe for the Hammers, who have shipped four goals on four of eight subsequent meetings in the Premier League.

But as West Ham prepare to make the trip to Anfield on Saturday evening, they do so with a greater confidence than usual that they can come away with victory.

We examine some of the reasons why West Ham are optimistic ahead of their visit to the reigning champions.

LIVERPOOL’S LEAKY DEFENCE

There has been a vulnerability about Liverpool’s back line of late that just wasn’t there for most of their title-winning campaign.

Klopp’s side have conceded the joint-most goals in the Premier League so far this season with 14 – equivalent to struggling West Bromwich Albion and Fulham.

As we know, seven of those 14 conceded came in one game against Aston Villa, a performance of such shambolic defending it raised genuine concerns as to whether Liverpool were up to defending their title.

Liverpool's defence has looked far more vulnerable than usual during the early season

Liverpool’s defence has looked far more vulnerable than usual during the early season

Liverpool's 7-2 thrashing at the hands of Aston Villa sent shockwaves through the league

Liverpool’s 7-2 thrashing at the hands of Aston Villa sent shockwaves through the league

To apply some context, they only conceded 33 goals in the entirety of last season and are well on their way to that total in the space of just six games this time around with just one clean sheet so far.

Opponents who would have been daunted when confronted with Liverpool’s defence last season now sense weakness and West Ham will be no exception.

MADE WORSE BY AN INJURY CRISIS

This vulnerability is partly – but not fully as some problems already existed – explained by a series of injury blows in recent games.

Obviously the major absentee is Virgil van Dijk, who is likely to be ruled out for the remainder of the season and has just had surgery on the acute cruciate knee ligament injury suffered at Everton two weeks ago.

Then Joel Matip picked up an injury in the same game that will keep him sidelined for West Ham’s visit, leaving Joe Gomez as Liverpool’s only fit centre-half.

Injury issues in defence and midfield are causing something of a headache for Jurgen Klopp

Injury issues in defence and midfield are causing something of a headache for Jurgen Klopp

Key defender Virgil van Dijk is likely to miss the remainder of the season with a serious knee injury caused by this challenge by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford two weeks ago

Key defender Virgil van Dijk is likely to miss the remainder of the season with a serious knee injury caused by this challenge by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford two weeks ago

Fabinho, who had been slotting in as a defender, is the latest Liverpool injury casualty

Fabinho, who had been slotting in as a defender, is the latest Liverpool injury casualty 

Midfielder Fabinho was expected to slot in until Matip returned to fitness but he suffered a hamstring problem in the midweek Champions League win over Midtjylland.

So we could well see Jordan Henderson forced to slot in at the back and though Liverpool’s captain is very much Mr Dependable, he obviously isn’t a natural defender.

Another option would be to play the youngster Rhys Williams alongside Gomez but it would be his first Premier League start.

Either way, West Ham will fancy their chances of breaching this makeshift Liverpool back line.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson may have to slot into a makeshift defence for the game

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson may have to slot into a makeshift defence for the game

DEPLETED IN MIDFIELD

It isn’t just at the back Liverpool are feeling a little stretched. They could well be short-handed in midfield for this fixture as well.

Thiago Alcantara and Naby Keita are both doubtful for Saturday’s game and if Henderson does have to drop back into defence, then Klopp’s options are limited.

He may have to start with Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner alongside Japan international Takumi Minamino in a deeper role or youngster Curtis Jones.

If both Keita and Thiago are ruled out, and Henderson is forced back, there will undoubtedly be a makeshift feel about Klopp’s selection.

Klopp will make a late check on the fitness of Thiago Alcantara ahead of Saturday's match

Klopp will make a late check on the fitness of Thiago Alcantara ahead of Saturday’s match 

WEST HAM ARE BRIMMING WITH CONFIDENCE

West Ham fans would have been forgiven for fearing the worst when the fixtures came out.

Arsenal, Wolves, Leicester, Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool were among their early season tests.

But David Moyes and his team have come through what could easily have been a turbulent period with heads held high.

Their first six games have yielded eight points with two wins, two draws and two defeats and the confidence absent for much of last season is beginning to flow.

West Ham's daunting opening to the new season has yielded more points than expected

West Ham’s daunting opening to the new season has yielded more points than expected

David Moyes and his team will come to Anfield feeling far less overawed than usual

David Moyes and his team will come to Anfield feeling far less overawed than usual 

West Ham were absolutely dominant in thrashing Wolves 4-0 and Leicester 3-0 while their thrilling fightback to draw 3-3 at Spurs felt like a win.

They then caused City plenty of problems in holding them to a 1-1 draw at the London Stadium last weekend.

So what could easily have been a very bleak start to the season hasn’t materialised and instead Moyes and his team are undaunted by any challenge.

They certainly won’t feel any fear factor heading to Anfield despite their current position of 12th, which doesn’t really do full justice to the manner of their performances so far.

Michail Antonio, who scored with an overhead kick against Manchester City last weekend, will be a big miss for West Ham after he suffered a hamstring injury

Michail Antonio, who scored with an overhead kick against Manchester City last weekend, will be a big miss for West Ham after he suffered a hamstring injury

HALLER WITH A POINT TO PROVE

Sebastien Haller certainly didn’t look like a £45million striker last season as he scored just seven times in 34 outings.

This season has seen a flurry of goals against lower league opposition in the EFL Cup and a last-minute strike to round off the win over Wolves.

But he has yet to start a Premier League game, with Moyes preferring the pace of Antonio up front.

But the in-form Antonio will now miss the next six weeks with the hamstring injury that forced him off during the City game.

It gives Haller a chance to prove his worth and Moyes will hope to harness that in the matches ahead as the Hammers look to continue a positive start.

Antonio's absence will give striker Sebastien Haller (left) a chance to show what he can do

Antonio’s absence will give striker Sebastien Haller (left) a chance to show what he can do

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