THE claim by West Ham United striker Michail Antonio that they will finish above Liverpool in the league this season may seem bizarre, yet his bravado cannot be faulted.
The Irons, with 10 points and in sixth place after five games, are still keeping pace with the other clubs in front of them, including the Reds in third place.
David Moyes’s team have done considerably well, with three wins, one loss and one draw.
The victories included a 3-1 win over high-flyers Brighton and Hove Albion at the American Express Community Stadium, and they also beat Chelsea with the same scoreline despite being a man down.
Having sold club captain Declan Rice to Arsenal before the start of the season, there were worries that they might struggle, but they have proven otherwise.
The money from Rice’s British record transfer had been well spent on players like Edson Alvarez, James Ward-Prowse and the super-talented Mohammed Kudus in midfield.
The purchase of Ward-Prowse from relegated Southampton also raised some eyebrows earlier among pundits and football fans, but the Englishman has been their star player by far, with two goals and three assists to his name.
Alvarez has helped to provide more defensive cover in midfield, while Kudus still needs more time to adapt to the Premier League.
Liverpool’s slow start to some games may have also given Antonio and his team hope they could cause trouble for the Merseyside club.
Antonio, who has scored two goals so far this season, will no doubt be a nuisance to Liverpool’s defenders at Anfield.
West Ham, last season’s Europa Conference League winners, hosted FK TSC Backa Topol at the London Stadium on Thursday and won 3-1. Moyes made several changes to the starting 11, which still proved too strong for the Serbian side.
Jarrod Bowen, Kurt Zouma, Vladimir Coufal and Nayef Aguerd, who sat out, are expected to be recalled for the crucial Liverpool clash. The Reds, meanwhile, will have club captain Virgil van Dijk back after his ban, and he will provide stability.
And with Ibrahima Konate fit again and most likely to partner the captain in central defence, the Reds may have what it takes to stop Antonio and his teammates.
The jury is still out though for Trent Alexander-Arnold’s fitness, who missed the match against Wolverhampton Wanderers last week due to a hamstring injury.
Joe Gomez, who has been playing well since being recalled to the starting line-up, could continue to deputise at right-back if the club vice-captain is still not fit.
It will also be interesting to see who gets club boss Jurgen Klopp’s nod to start alongside Mohamed Salah up top, given that all the forwards have been playing well.
Darwin Nunez and Luis Diaz have two league goals each, but the Uruguayan Nunez has two more assists to his name.
The two South Americans are a handful and great at causing chaos for the opposition, and both started against Linzer Athletik-Sport-Klub (LASK) during the Europa League group match in Austria on Thursday.
This could mean that Diogo Jota and Cody Gakpo get the nod, having not featured in the 3-1 win over LASK.
In midfield, Dominik Szoboszlai is a starter and should be partnered up with Alexis Mac Allister and Curtis Jones.
In their last 10 league matches against West Ham at Anfield, the Reds have eight wins, one loss and a draw.
Liverpool last lost at home to the London side club in 2015, when Brendan Rodgers was boss.
The last six league matches between 2018 and 2022 also ended in Liverpool’s favour.
The Reds may have started slowly in some matches this season, including being 0-1 down to Bournemouth, Newcastle, Wolves and LASK, but they have proven that they have the mentality to come back from behind and win.
Antonio and West Ham may one day get the upper hand over the Reds, but it is hard to see it happening this weekend.