Two teams separated by just one place and two points in the Premier League table will go head to head on Sunday when West Ham United welcome Liverpool to the London Stadium.
The in-form Hammers sit fifth following a fine run of form, while champions Liverpool go into the match in fourth place following their much-needed 3-1 victory at Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday night.
It took longer than they would have expected, but Liverpool finally got their first goals and first league win of 2021 on Thursday night with a convincing return to form at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
A 3-1 triumph in North London, courtesy of goals from Roberto Firmino, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Sadio Mane, lifted Jurgen Klopp’s side back into the top four, after they had been displaced by Sunday’s opponents earlier in the week.
It was a timely return to winning ways at the beginning of a run which sees Liverpool face five of the current top seven in the space of six league games, in addition to a Champions League tie with RB Leipzig, but the effect of their recent five-match winless streak can still be seen in the league table.
Liverpool head into the weekend sitting four points adrift of in-form leaders Manchester City having played a game more than Pep Guardiola’s side, and any more dropped points on Sunday will likely further dent their hopes of successfully defending their title.
With a run of 482 minutes and 93 shots without a Premier League goal now behind them, though, the division’s leading scorers will be confident of stringing together back-to-back top-flight wins for only the second time since October.
The Reds’ away form has been distinctly average so far this season – no fewer than nine teams have picked up more points on the road – but they have particularly enjoyed their trips to London.
Indeed, all three of Liverpool’s Premier League away wins this season have come in the capital, and all three have been among their most convincing performances of the campaign too – a 2-0 triumph at Chelsea, a 7-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace and Thursday’s win at Spurs.
It is almost a year since Liverpool won back-to-back away league games within the same season, though, and they will travel to the Hammers expecting a tougher game than any of those other Londoners have provided so far.
David Moyes’s side sit above every other capital club in the league table as things stand, thanks largely to a run of four consecutive top-flight victories for the first time since December 2018.
In all competitions West Ham still boast a 100% record in 2021, winning the first six games of a calendar year for the first time in their history. Another triumph on Sunday would see them record seven successive victories for only the third time ever at any stage of the year.
Moyes has been keen to temper expectations and continues to insist that his side have a long way to go before they can start to think of a European challenge, but they have certainly put themselves in the conversation and the fact that they have the opportunity to leapfrog Liverpool in the table heading into February speaks volumes about the progress they have made.
On the flip side, Moyes will be fully aware of how quickly things can change too; his side are only six points above 11th place, and four of the six teams directly below them in the table have at least one game in hand.
The Hammers’ recent form has been by relatively fine margins too; just two of their last 16 league games have been decided by more than one goal, while each of their last eight victories has come by a solitary strike.
Those narrow wins also showcase a steeliness and level of character which has perhaps been missing from West Ham in the past, though, and they will welcome the champions full of belief that they can come away with another three points.
If they are to do that then they will have to end a nine-match winless run against Liverpool in the league, while Moyes has not got the better of the Reds in the top flight from his last 13 attempts – a run which now stretches back more than a decade.
West Ham United Premier League form: WWWWWW
West Ham United form (all competitions): DDWWWW