Christian Benteke’s promising form and the return of Daniel Sturridge has Nathaniel Clyne hopeful that Liverpool can reinvigorate their challenge for a top-four Premier League finish, starting with Saturday’s trip to West Ham.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are five points adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham at the halfway point in the season following a 1-0 win at Sunderland on Wednesday.
That success came on the back of a 1-0 triumph over high-flying Leicester City, with Benteke netting the decisive goal in both games.
West Ham are just one point and one place behind Liverpool in eighth and won 3-0 in August’s reverse fixture, ending a 52-year wait for a win at Anfield thanks to goals from Manuel Lanzini, Mark Noble and Diafra Sakho.
A similar result on Saturday would derail Liverpool’s tentative resurgence but the visitors’ hopes may be significantly boosted by the return of Sturridge, who has been out of action since picking up a hamstring injury against Newcastle United at the start of December.
Clyne said: “The team is full of confidence with back-to-back wins.
“We go into the new year with confidence and [we’ll] go into every game trying to win and push up the league and see where it takes us.
“There are still plenty of points to play for and if we keep performing as we did today I’m sure we won’t be too far off [the top four].”
Captain Jordan Henderson is a doubt for Liverpool having picked up a knock at Sunderland but James Milner is out due to a calf problem and Divock Origi will miss three weeks with a hamstring injury, while Martin Skrtel is unavailable because of a similar issue.
West Ham – 2-1 winners over Southampton last time out – are unbeaten in seven home games, providing a platform for them to build on with a number of injured players closing in on a comeback.
Dimitri Payet (ankle), Nikica Jelavic (knee) and Aaron Cresswell (muscle) could all return to action against Liverpool.
Enner Valencia picked up a knock in the triumph against Southampton, Victor Moses and Winston Reid (both hamstring) are unlikely to be fit enough to return and Diafra Sakho (thigh) is still on the sidelines.
Despite being just six points off the top four, manager Slaven Bilic is not setting his side any targets.
He said: “We have to maintain the same intensity and if we do that we will do well. We don’t have a specific target; we want to win every game.
“Knowing that this is the most difficult league in Europe, that’ll be tough, but when we are at are best, we are very good.”
Key Opta Stats:
– Six of West Ham’s last eight Premier League games have ended in a draw (W1 D6 L1).
– Andy Carroll could make his 150th Premier League appearance in this game – 44 of his Premier League appearances came for Liverpool, where he netted just six goals.
– Liverpool mustered just one shot on target in their 0-3 defeat to the Hammers at Anfield earlier this season.
– Liverpool have won five matches 1-0 so far this season in the Premier League, a total only West Bromwich Albion can match.
– West Ham have conceded the lowest percentage of second half goals in the top flight this season (39 per cent).