Sami Hyypia gets a well-earned rest from a far busier season than he’d envisaged, with Rafa moving Jamie Carragher from full-back into the centre of defence for tonight’s game against West Ham. Hyypia moves to the bench. The other full-back from the weekend win over Bolton, goalscorer Fabio Aurelio, is also missing tonight, with Alvaro Arbeloa and John Arne Riise coming in.
Mascherano and Alonso both get another start in the centre of the midfield three, behind captain Steven Gerrard in the free role he has in this system.
There were rumours Fernando Torres was going to miss out due to illness, but the Imodium seems to have done the trick and the top scorer starts. He’ll be supported by weekend scorer Ryan Babel and Dirk Kuyt.
Itandje’s back on the bench after his recent absences, amidst rumours of rather unprofessional behaviour from the summer signing. Yossi Benayoun, Jermaine Pennant and Peter Crouch make up the rest of a pretty attack-minded subs’ bench.
For West Ham the mercenary Lucas Neill starts in defence, the Australian remembered mostly for his decision to risk six-months with relegation-threatened West Ham just over a year ago in return for more money than he’d have got from Liverpool, who went all the way to the Champions League final. To have a chance of doing that next season Liverpool really must win tonight, and will be slightly heartened that ex-Red Craig Bellamy isn’t on the West Ham side. A win would see Liverpool move into fourth place on goal difference, the game-in-hand that has haunted the team since August finally out of the way. West Ham beat Liverpool just weeks ago at Upton Park, a late Jamie Carragher error handing the Hammers all three points.
Liverpool: 25 Reina, 17 Arbeloa, 37 Skrtel, 23 Carragher, 6 Riise, 20 Mascherano, 14 Alonso, 8 Gerrard, 19 Babel, 18 Kuyt, 9 Torres
Subs: 30 Itandje, 4 Hyypia, 11 Benayoun, 15 Crouch, 16 Pennant
West Ham: 1 Green, 2 Neill, 5 Ferdinand, 6 Upson, 3 McCartney, 15 Solano, 16 Noble, 17 Mullins, 7 Ljungberg, 34 Boa Morte, 12 Cole
Subs: 21 Wright, 9 Ashton, 14 Pantsil, 18 Spector, 25 Zamora
Referee: Steve Bennett