Liverpool play West Ham at Upton Park tonight in an early-evening kick-off, knowing they need all three points to keep the pressure on Manchester United. A win would actually put the Reds top on goal difference overnight, having played two games more.
Their chances of getting those three points are boosted by the presence of both Fernando Torres – back from a hamstring injury – and Steven Gerrard.
One important name missing from the teamsheet is Xabi Alonso. The Spaniard was injured by the reckless tackle that saw Joey Barton sent off in front of the Kop for Newcastle last weekend and so in comes Lucas. Javier Mascherano was also injured in that game but has recovered in time to start tonight.
Yossi Benayoun and Dirk Kuyt have been bagging goals of late for Liverpool and both start, with Yossi likely to play on the left.
Martin Skrtel partners Jamie Carragher at centre-back, with the long-serving and ever-reliable Sami Hyypia on the bench if required, in one of his last three chances to play for Reds before leaving at the end of the season.
West Ham’s hopes of finishing sixth were all-but dashed earlier in the afternoon when Everton got a point against Tottenham, but it is still mathematically possible. Seventh place would still give West Ham the chance of playing in the renamed UEFA Cup next season, and although the Tottenham draw helps them out in that respect, Fulham won earlier and so West Ham start the game in ninth. The East London side will be fighting for a win.
Today’s referee is Alan Wiley, as it was last season in this fixture when a late penalty gave the Hammers the points.
West Ham: 1 Green, 2 Neill, 30 Tomkins, 15 Upson, 3 Ilunga, 13 Boa Morte, 16 Noble, 14 Kovac, 46 Stanislas, 32 Di Michele, 25 Tristan
Subs: 24 Lastuvka, 5 Lopez, 10 Nsereko, 18 Spector, 31 Collison, 33 Sears, 35 Payne
Liverpool: 25 Reina, 17 Arbeloa, 37 Skrtel, 23 Carragher, 12 Aurelio, 20 Mascherano, 21 Lucas, 18 Kuyt, 8 Gerrard, 15 Benayoun, 9 Torres
Subs: 1 Cavalieri, 2 Dossena, 4 Hyypia, 19 Babel, 22 Insua, 24 Ngog, 27 Degen
Referee: Alan Wiley