Both sides were restricted by major injury worries, but it was Liverpool who had the most concerns. West Ham were without Keane, Stanislas, and Dyer while Liverpool were again missing Andy Carroll, Daniel Agger and Fabio Aurelio.
Matthew Upson had been a doubt for the fixture, but he managed to start; as did Liverpool’s Steven Garrard. Johnson and Kelly also began the match.
From the team sheets it was clear that the two managers were going to proceed with very different approaches.
Grant continued with his usual 4-3-3. Parker stayed ahead of the back four as the anchor man, while Thomas Hitzlspeger (the key player, according to Avram Grant) and Mark Noble played as energetic central midfielders. The interesting decision was made with the front three. New signing Ba had been used at Hoffenheim as a wide forward coming in from the left hand side. Here, Grant chose to make him the spearhead of the attack. This pushed Piquionne out left with the other winter signing – Garry O’Neil – filling in on the right.
After flirting with 4-2-3-1 in the previous three games (Wigan at home and the two legs against Sparta Prague), Dalglish reverted to the “revolutionary” 3-4-1-2 that got so many commentators hot under the collar against Stoke City.
This post is for Subscribers only.