After some hugely impressive early season wins, particularly on their travels, West Ham United’s form had dipped of late.
They returned to winning ways on Monday with a 2-1 victory over Southampton, ending a barren run that had seen them draw five games on the spin and go eight top-flight matches without a victory. During this time they scored just four goals.
That loss of form was a growing cause for concern, albeit performances were still reasonable and there were extenuating circumstances as they awaited the return of a number of key players from injury.
It says something of the character within Slaven Bilic’s squad that, despite a poor return of points in recent weeks, they were able to recover from a goal down to beat Southampton. In a season of such unpredictability in the Premier League, the victory over the Saints also rekindled their hopes of challenging for an unlikely top four finish this season.
Liverpool are one point and one place better off than the Hammers following their 1-0 win at Sunderland on Wednesday night. That victory on Wearside came off the back of the win over Leicester City on Boxing Day, with Christian Benteke scoring the only goal of the game on both occasions. Those two good results came after a run that saw the Reds take just a single point from their previous three matches and have signaled a more pragmatic approach from manager Jurgen Klopp.
Although Liverpool possess the players that can open up any opposition on their day, West Ham are a pretty solid defensive unit of late, having conceded just three goals in their last six games. They also have players gradually returning from injury and, other than striker Diafra Sakho, Bilic could theoretically have an almost full squad to select from for.
By contrast Liverpool are still dealing with a number of injuries and Jordan Henderson could be a doubt for the trip to the Boleyn Ground after going off with a knock against former club Sunderland. Most of those on the Anfield treatment table are long-term absentees, but the game could also come just too soon for James Milner and Daniel Sturridge.
There’s little to choose from between these teams in the table and it could be equally tight on the day. That being the case, backing West Ham with +0.5 of a goal start on the Asian Handicap looks a solid punt, and will provide a winning bet as long as the Hammers can avoid defeat.