The Big Match

Football: Hammers a tough nut to crack

West Ham's Alex Song.
West Ham's Alex Song. PHOTO: REUTERS

Klopp seeks FA Cup Wembley ticket but the Reds have lost twice to West Ham this season

All roads may lead back to Wembley for Juergen Klopp.

The German took Borussia Dortmund to a Champions League final at England's national stadium in 2013. Three months into his reign at Anfield, he has already booked a return in the League Cup. Another could beckon in the FA Cup.

Yet his path could have taken him elsewhere in London.

West Ham approached Klopp in the summer. He rebuffed their advances and they appointed Slaven Bilic instead.

They have had no grounds to regret it. Normally, the Hammers go to Anfield as rank outsiders, but perhaps not now. They have beaten Liverpool by an aggregate score of 5-0 this season, winning at Anfield for the first time in 52 years and are above the Reds in the Premier League.

Whether under Brendan Rodgers or Klopp, Liverpool have been subjected to demolition jobs by the Hammers.

AT FIRST GO

I don't want a replay. I would like to win without a second game! It will be a different team, for sure. We have to make a few changes... but only because we want to win.

'JUERGEN KLOPP, Liverpool manager, at yesterday's press conference.

  • FA CUP 4TH ROUND

  • TODAY

    Colchester (III) v Tottenham Ch109, 8.35pm

    Arsenal v Burnley (II) Ch109, 10.50pm

    Aston Villa v Manchester City

    Bolton (II) v Leeds (II)

    Bury (III) v Hull City (II)

    Crystal Palace v Stoke

    Nottingham Forest (II) v Watford Ch110, 10.50pm

    Oxford (IV) v Blackburn (II)

    Portsmouth (IV) v Bournemouth

    Reading (II) v Walsall (III)

    Shrewsbury (III) v Sheffield Wednesday (II)

    West Brom v Peterborough (III)

    Liverpool v West Ham Ch109, tomorrow, 1.20am


    TOMORROW

    Carlisle (IV) v Everton Ch109, 9.20pm

    MK Dons (II) v Chelsea Ch109, 11.50pmAll on Singtel TV

    * Roman numerals denote division of non-English Premier League clubs

It is a sign of West Ham's progress that, if they do not have a better squad than Liverpool, they at least have a more balanced group.

They have also displayed greater consistency than Klopp's team, who have veered from an exhilarating 5-4 win at Norwich to an abject 1-0 defeat by Stoke this week, even if they won the penalty shoot-out against the latter to reach the League Cup final.

West Ham, beaten only once in 11 games, have been more reliable, regardless of a lengthy injury list.

Liverpool can at least take solace in the absence of two of their recent tormentors. Manuel Lanzini, who was outstanding at Anfield in August, is sidelined. So is Andy Carroll, who remains Liverpool's record signing and exploited their frailties against crosses four weeks ago.

West Ham will instead be more mobile in attack and possess the midfield muscle, in Alex Song and Cheikhou Kouyate, to combat Liverpool's frantic running.

Klopp selected scratch sides against Exeter, who took Liverpool to a replay in the third round but is likely to parachute his premier players back in, even if the exertions of 120 minutes of football on Tuesday and the proximity of a meeting with league leaders Leicester could influence selection.

It will be intriguing if Christian Benteke, who was awful at Upton Park and who failed to score for either of the second-string sides that faced Exeter, starts.

The Belgian's last FA Cup goal had a significance. It came against Liverpool as Aston Villa defeated them in last season's semi-final.

It may have earned him a move to Anfield but it is a reason why Liverpool have not won this competition for a decade, since Steven Gerrard's spectacular brace, including a 90th-minute equaliser, enabled them to overcome West Ham in the 2006 final.

Now Klopp has replaced the departed captain as the figurehead, looking to use his considerable charisma to bring silverware to Merseyside.

LIVERPOOL V WEST HAM

Singtel TV Ch109, tomorrow, 1.20am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2016, with the headline 'Hammers a tough nut to crack'. Print Edition | Subscribe