15:00 BST, Saturday 18th August, London Stadium
Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United will try to get their 2018/19 campaign back on track when they face Bournemouth after they were dismantled 4-0 at Anfield on the opening weekend of the season.
Bournemouth had a comparatively bright start as they ousted Premier League newcomers Cardiff City 2-0 on the south coast.
Nothing could split these two sides last season as they fought out two score draws though the expectations for the Hammers have increased since they invested heavily in their playing squad this summer.
Bournemouth also spent an uncharacteristically high amount over the summer window, however, new signing Diego Rico will still be unavailable as he sits out the second of his three-match ban carried over from La Liga last season.
Last Time Out
Liverpool 4-0 West Ham United
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool carried on from where they left off last season with a thumping 4-0 win over the Hammers at Anfield last Sunday.
The home side was dominant throughout and deserved their two goals in each half which gave them the scoreline that their performance warranted.
Last season’s Golden Boot winner Mohamed Salah took only 19 minutes to get his scoring campaign underway when he met Andrew Robertson’s driven cross.
Sadio Mane doubled the hosts’ lead in first half added time when he slotted home a James Milner pull-back.
After half time, Liverpool were still dominant, and they stretched their lead to three when Mane added his second from a Roberto Firmino pass.
Daniel Sturridge then capped his impressive pre-season with his sides’ fourth with just minutes left on the clock.
Bournemouth 2-0 Cardiff City
Bournemouth got their season off to a winning start when they comfortably beat Premier League new boys Cardiff City at the Vitality Stadium.
Eddie Howe was without new signings Diego Rico and Jefferson Lerma, but his more familiar crop of players comfortably got past Neil Warnock’s dogged defensive side.
The hosts were ahead inside 25 minutes when Ryan Fraser found himself unmarked ten yards out following a cut-back from Callum Wilson to finish past Neil Etheridge.
Wilson then had a chance to double the lead but saw his tame effort from the penalty spot saved.
After the break Bournemouth weathered a small storm before Wilson redeemed his earlier missed spot-kick with a goal in added time to seal the win, finishing low into the far corner after good work from Simon Francis.
West Ham United Lineup
An opening day trip to Anfield is as tough as it comes and it would be harsh for Pellegrini to drop too many of his players on the back of an expected loss.
Could Javier Hernandez get the start? It is possible that Pellegrini will look to get the poacher on the field as the Hammers lacked a predatory finisher on Saturday.
Pellegrini has promised the return of attacking, fluid football this season, though few could blame him for deploying a more defensive formation at Liverpool.
At home, though, fans will expect their side to play more adventurously. Pellegrini has toyed with playing two up front, so Declan Rice could miss out to accommodate the switch in formation.
After a convincing opening day win, Howe will be reluctant to make too many changes to his side.
Lewis Cook sat out the win over Cardiff but the former Leeds United man will hope to return to the midfield role he excelled in during the second half of last season.
Josh King and Callum Wilson worked well in a partnership up front on Saturday and the pair will look to feature once more.
Key Battle: Marko Arnautovic vs Nathan Ake
Marko Arnautovic thrived last campaign after being played in a more advanced position though the Austrian was an isolated figure at Liverpool.
The number seven has a big chance to get his season off and running this weekend and he will be licking his lips at the prospect of playing against an often shaky Cherries defence.
Nathan Ake has been a mainstay in the Bournemouth defence since his arrival on the south coast from Chelsea and the centre half will be in for a busy afternoon if the West Ham attack clicks.
Arnautovic’s pace will pose a threat to the Bournemouth backline and Ake will ensure the forward isn’t afforded too much time and space in dangerous areas.
The Austrian attacker scored twice against the Cherries last season when the two sides played out an entertaining 3-3 on Boxing Day.
Should Pellegrini play two up front, the link-up play between Arnautovic and probable partner Javier Hernandez could give Ake and his teammates a problem.
Can the new-look West Ham gel?
The trip to Anfield would always be tough to draw any conclusions from for West Ham and it will take time for the new signings to bed into the current set-up.
Fans wanted the board to act – and they did. That being said, with such a heavy spend, supporters will expect to see results on the pitch, and quickly.
The longer the Hammers go without strong performances and a handful of wins, the heavier the pressure will become.
Felipe Anderson was a bright spark going forward, though with his side having so little of the ball over the 90 minutes, it is difficult to scrutinise any of the attacking players. Andriy Yarmolenko got his first taste of football in the claret and blue, but he, too, will need time.
It will be home games such as this one that fans will expect to see the promised attacking style from Pellegrini, but can the players quickly develop inter-squad understanding?
There were eight goals scored in the two fixtures between these two sides last season and the predicted set-ups could mean that the trend continues.
Both teams could field formations that allow for two up front. With Arnautovic and Hernandez leading the line for the home side and Wilson and King spearheading the Bournemouth attack, there is pace in abundance at both ends of the pitch.
Defensively, the Hammers and the Cherries were vulnerable throughout the 2017/18 season, shipping a huge 129 goals between them… this one could have all the ingredients for another goal-fest.
Prediction: West Ham United 2-1 Bournemouth
West Ham boast a lot of potential firepower which may be fully unlocked as the season grows though it is too early to see them scoring heavily. The new recruits will need a month or so to get settled though the likes of Anderson and Yarmolenko will to get going as quickly as possible.
Both defences are prone to conceding goals, but the Hammers have invested in their defensive over the summer and will want to see results quickly. This one has potential to be higher scoring, but by a one-goal margin at most. 2-1.
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