Reds on alert as top four bid reaches crunch time

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LONDON: Two vic­to­ries from their fi­nal two matches will book Liver­pool’s place in next sea­son’s Cham­pi­ons League, but Jur­gen Klopp’s side won’t be tak­ing any­thing for granted when they face West Ham to­day.

Liver­pool dropped two points as they were held 0-0 at home by Southamp­ton last weekend, and can be grate­ful that their fate is still in their own hands thanks to Manchester United’s de­feat at Arse­nal.

The Reds have al­ready strug­gled against West Ham this sea­son, re­cov­er­ing from a half-time deficit to earn a 2-2 draw at An­field in De­cem­ber.

At least they are play­ing bet­ter on their trav­els than at An­field at the mo­ment, hav­ing won their last three away matches, while their last three home games have yielded no vic­to­ries and only two points.

Klopp is hope­ful mid­fielder Lu­cas Leiva and for­ward Roberto Firmino may be able to over­come in­jury con­cerns to play some part in the game, even if they are not in­volved in the start­ing line-up at the London Sta­dium.

Both play­ers have missed train­ing this week be­cause of mus­cle prob­lems.

Per­haps the most sig­nif­i­cant bonus for Klopp, though, is the fact that Daniel Stur­ridge ap­pears to be fi­nally over the in­jury prob­lems that have trou­bled him for the best part of three years.

The striker has not played a full 90 min­utes for Liver­pool all sea­son, but im­pressed dur­ing a brief run-out as a sub­sti­tute against Southamp­ton and, hav­ing re­cov­ered from a hip prob­lem, is likely to start at West Ham if Firmino is not risked.

“Daniel is ready. That is good. So far it’s been dif­fi­cult be­cause you can’t start a player then have to think af­ter 40 min­utes: So we have to change?” Klopp said.

“Daniel is a won­der­ful op­tion to have but it is all about be­ing fit or not. It is not the name we bring on the pitch, it is the player, the hu­man be­ing, in this spe­cific shape.

“When he was fit he was al­ways a real op­tion for us. And it is again now like this.”

West Ham en­joyed a 1-0 home win against Tot­ten­ham last week, a re­sult that ban­ished any lin­ger­ing fears of be­ing dragged back into a rel­e­ga­tion fight.

Ham­mers man­ager Slaven Bilic was keen to repli­cate that en­er­getic per­for­mance against Liver­pool.

“We are pre­par­ing and plan­ning to do some­thing sim­i­lar,” he said. “There are a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween those two sides.

“We still have two games and we are very am­bi­tious that we get six points and climb up the ta­ble.” AFP

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