Benayoun returns to haunt Hammers?
ESPN's Saturday evening game sees Liverpool - together with in-form former Hammer Yossi Benayoun - head to West Ham, a happy hunting ground for them in recent years.
The little Italian has enjoyed mixed success in his first major managerial role. Attempting to bring some of his trademark flair to his side, he received rave reviews for avoiding a relegation battle and leading the Hammers to a 9th-place finish in 2008-09. However, consistency has evaded him and you are never quite sure which side is going to turn up. The beginning of this season has proved to be an epitome of his time in charge, drawing against Blackburn, beating Wolves, but losing to Tottenham and Wigan - meaning they are in the bottom half of the table.
With his eyes on success on all fronts, Benitez has struggled to assert the same dominance that Manchester City and Chelsea have so far done in the Premier League this season. A well-prepared manager, he will have his gameplan to stop the Hammers from firing, but needs to avoid another defeat (as Liverpool have already lost the same number of games this season as they managed in the whole of last season). Rotating his players may cause a few dressing room strops, but he should still have the firepower to pick up a win and will want a similar performance to the dominant 3-0 display in this fixture last season.
Mark Noble v Yossi Benayoun
Noble is the longest serving player currently in the West Ham squad and has notched up over 100 appearances for the club since making his debut in 2004. An established England Under-21 international, his presence in the centre of midfield has proved to be an important part of the side and his ability to track back and close down the opposition could come in useful against the likes of Benayoun. Noble's work rate marks him out as one to watch, although he also has the skill to pick a pass and unlock the Liverpool defence too.
Benayoun returns to Upton Park after Liverpool paid £4 million to sign him in 2007, despite claiming he would sign a new deal in London. It was a good move though, as in his two years at Liverpool he has already scored twice as many goals than in his two years at the Hammers - and three of those came against Burnley in his last Premier League game. Capable of unlocking a defence, Benayoun's technical skill on the ball is a valuable asset to Liverpool's attack and he will have something of a point to prove after his transfer left an unpleasant taste in the mouth.
Carlton Cole v Martin Skrtel
Keen to show the world (and Fabio Capello) that he is ready to fulfil the potential he showed all too briefly at Chelsea, Cole has been struggling to make an impact of late; but although he has only scored one goal in four games, his link play and extraordinary work ethic have aided West Ham's fairly ordinary start to the season and he remains the focal point of the attack. With the arrivals of Alessandro Diamanti and former Villarreal striker Guillermo Franco, he will have competition for places, but his power and pace should be a concern for Skrtel and defensive partner Jamie Carragher.
Skrtel is more than capable of handling a physical test, so will be relishing the prospect of lining up against Cole. Liverpool have not conceded a goal since his return after the 3-2 win over Bolton and his commanding presence was missed against the Trotters. A strong, excellent reader of the game, Skrtel has proved himself worthy of retaining his first-team spot and Benitez will be a lot more confident about keeping a clean sheet with him in the side.
Rob Green v Fernando Torres
Green has a penchant for performing well against the top teams, but will have to be at his very best to keep out a Liverpool attack that have scored 12 goals in their last four Premier League games. The England stopper has elevated himself above some of his counterparts to claim the No. 1 jersey in the absence of David James and has shown why Fabio Capello has such faith in him with consistent performances for the Hammers. Keen to earn his place on the plane to South Africa, a commanding clean sheet against Liverpool would certainly do him no harm.
For Liverpool to fire on all cylinders they need Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres to play well. Even if one has a bad game, the other usually doesn't and the Anfield faithful will be pleased to note that the pair have started of all their Premier League games thus far. Concerns over the fitness of Torres appear to have been put to bed and West Ham could feel the full force of the devastating Spaniard. Three goals from just nine shots on target this season have shown that Torres could have his best season ever in the red shirt, if he stays off the treatment table.
• West Ham beat Liverpool 1-0 at Upton Park in 2008, but you have to go back to 1999 for the win before that.
• Fernando Torres has started all five of Liverpool's games in 2009-10 and has hit nine shots on goal, for a return of three.
• In July 2007, Liverpool paid £4 million to bring Israel captain Benayoun to Anfield from West Ham.
• West Ham v Liverpool in the Premier League: Played: 104, Won: 21, Lost: 54, Drawn: 29.
• The Hammers didn't lose at home against the Reds for five seasons, between 1997-98 and 2002-03.
• Biggest wins at Upton Park: 1930-31: West Ham 7-0 Liverpool. 1966-66: West Ham 1-5 Liverpool.