Ever since the transfer window closed, with Andy Carroll being allowed to leave on loan and especially when Fabio Borini went down injured, everyone connected with Liverpool has doubtless had their fingers crossed that Luis Suarez would continue to be available.
The nightmare scenario arrives for manager Brendan Rodgers on Sunday as he is forced to do without his talismanic, and only fit and established, forward through suspension. Already a side struggling for a cutting edge, it is not an enviable prospect for Liverpool as they travel to Upton Park to face a West Ham side that have been a tough proposition at home on their return to the Premier League.
Typically, Rodgers attempted to look at the positives heading into the match without the Premier League’s joint-top scorer so far this season.
“It's an opportunity for probably one of the young players but we are what we are,” he told the official Liverpool website. “We've got players in the group who can score goals. I saw a statistic recently that was really interesting and it was that the record number of goalscorers in any one season is 18. We've actually hit 15 up until this point and that shows you that our goals are actually spread out across the team.”
Liverpool received a boost on Thursday as they qualified for the last 32 of the Europa League with a win over Udinese, but there was a logistical blow as the group was forced to spend an extra night than planned in Italy.
Nuri Sahin suffered a broken nose in the victory and will be assessed close to kick-off, but Steven Gerrard, Lucas Leiva and Daniel Agger should all come back into the squad.
West Ham come into the match three points ahead of Liverpool in the Premier League standings and fresh off a memorable 3-1 victory over London rivals West Ham last Saturday.
Sam Allardyce showed with his celebrations on the touchline just what it meant to him to take out one of the league’s big names and the former Bolton boss would love to do something similar on Sunday.
The ineligibility of West Ham’s on-loan Liverpool striker Carroll is irrelevant due to a knee injury. Carlton Cole will continue to deputize after scoring against Chelsea, while Mohamed Diame should start after also making a big impact in that win.
West Ham (probable)
D: Demel, Collins, Reid, O’Brien
M: Diame, Noble
Taylor, Nolan, Jarvis
D: Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Downing
M: Lucas, Allen
Sterling, Gerrard, Enrique
Prediction: With the absence of Suarez, it is widely expected that Rodgers will select Jonjo Shelvey in a false nine role. Shelvey has proven effective this season in arriving into the penalty area from deep, but it remains to be seen how he copes from a higher starting position.
Crucial to the system’s success will be having runners supporting and breaking ahead of the former Charlton midfielder. Gerrard will likely be given more license to get forward but lacks the legs to make the same number of attacking forays as he did in his younger years, while Jose Enrique still looks somewhat uncomfortable in the opposition’s box. Raheem Sterling, therefore, will need to have a big game, if Liverpool are to provide any meaningful attacking threat.
The match will be a complete contrast in styles with the short-passing approach of Liverpool meeting the direct tactics of Allardyce’s West Ham. It is likely to be a challenging 90 minutes for the visitors and by the end they may be quite contented to emerge with a point.
West Ham 1-1 Liverpool
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match kicks-off at 11 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a delayed online stream available later in the day on Fox Soccer 2Go.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.