EPL: Revamped Liverpool making case for their defence
Liverpool are a long way from the free-scoring side who almost won the Premier League two seasons ago, but their new-look defence is providing plenty of encouragement for boss Brendan Rodgers ahead of Saturday`s clash with West Ham.
London: Liverpool are a long way from the free-scoring side who almost won the Premier League two seasons ago, but their new-look defence is providing plenty of encouragement for boss Brendan Rodgers ahead of Saturday`s clash with West Ham.
With no goals conceded in Liverpool`s opening three matches, Rodgers can feel a degree of confidence before a home game against West Ham, who have not won at Anfield since 1964.
The arrivals of Nathaniel Clyne and Joe Gomez have done much to strengthen the Liverpool full-back positions, while James Milner has given the midfield a solid look.
Put together, they have eased some of the pressure on Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren in the centre of defence, with Clyne and Gomez especially impressive.
"For two guys who have just arrived at the club, where the expectation level will be way above what they`ve experienced before, they already look as though they`ve been here a long, long time," first-team coach Gary McAllister said.
There`s no doubt that Rodgers` side have enjoyed some defensive fortune so far, with Bournemouth and Arsenal both unlucky to have goals ruled out in recent games.
But there is a sense that Liverpool are less likely to give away the silly goals that cost them so much last season.
At the other end, Liverpool do have room for improvement, having scored only twice in three matches, but the arrival of Belgium striker Christian Benteke from Aston Villa has added power to an attack that looked lightweight last season.
"Christian has obviously been labelled a certain type, probably because of his size," Rodgers said.
"But you see the quality of his touch, his movement to spin in behind, to come short, his set-up play and, of course, he`s a real threat in the air."
Liverpool will have even more options in attack when Benteke`s power and aerial threat can be married to the speed of Daniel Sturridge.
But although Sturridge is back in training after hip surgery, the England forward is not yet match fit, and his return is likely to come after the next international break. England midfielder Adam Lallana is not expected to be available, having missed Monday`s 0-0 draw at Arsenal with a thigh problem, and so Roberto Firmino could make a full home debut.
Captain Jordan Henderson has been battling a foot injury, which kept him out of the match at the Emirates Stadium.
If he fails to recover, then Milner will retain the captaincy, with Emre Can playing alongside him in midfield.
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic believes Diafra Sakho is mentally prepared to return and ease his injury problems in attack, despite the Senegalese having been arrested twice this month.
Sakho was bailed earlier this week following his denial that he made threats to kill, as well as witness intimidation, after being accused of assault three days before the club began their league campaign with a 2-0 victory at Arsenal.
It has been a testing week for Bilic, with Enner Valencia offering him a personal apology to go with that issued in a club statement after the Ecuadorian forward criticised the club`s treatment of his ongoing knee treatment.
With Mauro Zarate also injured and Andy Carroll not yet ready to return from his own knee problem until after the international break, Bilic is keen for Sakho to return to his ranks and reckons his only concern is the player`s niggling groin problem.
"I spoke to the player of course about that other issue and he looks bright," Bilic said.
"He`s good in the head and we need players in those positions. We expect he will be available because his injury is nothing major."