Antonio out & “exceptional” £80k-p/w threat axed: Predicted WHU line-up vs Liverpool – opinion

West Ham United travel to face Liverpool in Saturday evening’s Premier League showdown at Anfield, but David Moyes will be without his leading striker Michail Antonio.

The forward is facing six weeks on the sidelines after suffering a hamstring tear during last weekend’s 1-1 draw at home to Manchester City, forcing the 30-year-old off early in the second-half and leaving Moyes short of offensive weapons.

Antonio has scored three goals in the top-flight this term, including an acrobatic bicycle kick to open the scoring at home to Pep Guardiola’s Sky Blues, making him the Hammers’ joint-top-scorer with Jarrod Bowen.

Sebastien Haller is Moyes’ only other recognised centre-forward but is yet to start a league fixture this season having fallen behind Antonio in the Irons’ pecking order, with the Frenchman struggling to live up to his £45million price tag with 12 goals in 42 West Ham appearances to date.

Moyes will need to rely on Haller at Anfield this weekend with Antonio missing, though the forward will not be the only change on the cards. So, with that in mind, here’s a predicted XI we could see the Scot favour against Liverpool…

West Ham PXI vs Liverpool - Antonio out & “exceptional” £80k-p/w threat axed: Predicted WHU line-up vs Liverpool – opinion

With Haller stepping in to the attack in place of Antonio, Moyes will need to add an added degree of creativity and ought to start his summer signing Said Benrahma after the Algerian failed to make the matchday squad at home to Manchester City.

Moyes opted to leave Benrahma out of the 18-man squad after the loan addition from Brentford was deemed not match fit despite having a full week of training, but will be pushing for a place in the side and a chance to prove his worth.

Benrahma, who West Ham have agreed to buy for £20m next summer, scored 17 goals and recorded 10 assists for Brentford last season, while offering 91 key balls, creating 12 big chances, playing 710 accurate passes in the final third, making 132 successful dribbles and taking 123 shot in the Championship, per SofaScore.

The introduction of Benrahma would leave Moyes with a decision to make over Pablo Fornals’ involvement, with the Spaniard starting all six Premier League fixtures in the Algerian’s preferred role.

Fornals warrants inclusion elsewhere on the field, though, and could take over duties on the right from Bowen having recorded more key balls (six to two), created more big chances (one to zero), played a higher number of accurate passes in the final third (37 to 30), taken more shots (seven to six) and recorded the same number of successful dribbles (five) than his £80,000-per-week teammate, per SofaScore.

Moyes dropping Bowen would be a big call for the Scot to make given the former Hull City winger’s goals, but the 23-year-old struggled against Manchester City last weekend as he failed 77% of his dribbles, offered no key balls and took no shots, per WhoScored.

Therefore, the decision to drop Bowen for Fornals – who played on the right last season – and remove who Hull manager Grant McCann lauds as an “exceptional” threat would not be as big of a call.

“He’s an exceptional talent,” McCann said on the Sky Sports EFL Podcast. “[He’s] so robust, never misses a training session, always the best trainer, really, really humble boy and I’ve no doubt he’s going to go on to bigger and brighter things.”

West Ham’s recent form ensures Moyes has few other dilemmas when naming his side to face Liverpool, with the Irons now unbeaten in their last four Premier League fixtures.

Lukas Fabianski has started all six of the east London outfit’s top-flight matches thus far, and is joined by Angelo Ogbonna, Aaron Cresswell, Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek in playing all 540 minutes available.

Arthur Masuaku has opened the Hammers’ last five league fixtures in line with Moyes’ shift to a 5-4-1 system, and impressed against Manchester City with five tackles, two clearances, two successful dribbles and 28 accurate passes, per WhoScored.

Moyes will need Masuaku, Cresswell, Ogbonna, Balbuena and Vladimir Coufal at the top of their games if West Ham are to beat Liverpool on Saturday at a ground in Anfield the east London outfit have not won at since 2015.

AND in other news, David Moyes’s transfer plans could unearth West Ham’s next Michail Antonio.

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