Allardyce wants duo to shine
Published 05/04/2014 | 17:47
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce believes Liverpool old-boys Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing will have to be at their very best against their former club on Sunday if the Hammers are to have any chance of causing an upset.
The Reds visit Upton Park fighting it out with Manchester City and Chelsea to be crowned Barclays Premier League champions with both Carroll and Downing deemed surplus to requirements by Brendan Rodgers since he took charge at Anfield.
The England international duo were snapped up by Allardyce, with Joe Cole also returning to West Ham from Liverpool in January 2013, and the 59-year-old knows that those players will have to put in top-drawer performances if they are to hurt the title tilt of Rodgers' side and make their point to the Northern Irishman.
"He (Brendan Rodgers) made a decision early on (with Carroll) and we were the first to try and resolve that situation," said Allardyce.
"As disappointed as Andy was, that was the decision made by Brendan and you have to move on, you have to put it behind you.
"Stewart Downing also comes into the fray where he played a part in Liverpool last season and then joined us. The rest of the team and those two lads particularly will want to show how good they are on Sunday. Let's hope they play very, very well on Sunday because we need them to."
Allardyce has confirmed captain Kevin Nolan will be available for the game having been forced off late in the win over Sunderland.
Liverpool defender Daniel Agger insists it would be wrong to focus on the threat of former team-mate Carroll and under-estimate the rest of the West Ham side.
The Hammers' striker was injured for their 4-1 defeat at Anfield in December, but after two goals in his last four matches he is finding a bit of form ahead of the visit of the Reds.
It will be the first time Carroll has faced his former side since being off-loaded by Rodgers for £15million - a massive £20million loss on his record fee of January 2011.
Carroll will no doubt have a point to prove to Rodgers in particular, but Agger said the focus has to remain on themselves and not whom they are facing.
"West Ham is a tough place to go. They have a few more than Andy, it is a good strong team," he told Press Association Sport.
"You cannot underestimate anyone, we see that week in, week out.
"I think their whole team will give us a hard time, but we have to focus on our game and the way we play.
"The most important thing is to win the next one."
Liverpool went top of the table with a 4-0 victory over Tottenham last Sunday to make it eight successive league wins, but they could be passed by Chelsea if they beat Stoke on Saturday.
The Reds found themselves in a similar position at Christmas when they were top on December 25 yet two games later were outside the top four.
Agger said for that reason no-one was getting carried away with reaching the summit again.
"The most important thing is to be top of the league at the end of the season because the league is so tight," added the Denmark international.
"I think we showed confidence against Tottenham, but the most important thing is to stay focused and know your job.
"We wanted to win our last game and that was what was in our head and now we have prepared for this week."
Manager Rodgers is confident his players will not be distracted by the title run-in, especially being chased by Chelsea and Manchester City, who both have more experienced sides in terms of winning it recently.
He, for one, will not be losing too much sleep over what the chasing pack are doing.
"We can't afford to worry about other teams," he said.
"Manchester City are a squad full of outstanding players with an excellent manager and are a club who have been building for a number of years.
"Chelsea have some top, experienced players and a world-class manager and if I spent my time worrying about our rivals and what they have got I'd be wasting my energy.
"We are very calm and focused on what our job is and for me it's about the next training session and instilling the confidence and belief in the squad that we can get results.
"We'll continue to work that way until the end of the season.
"A lot of teams would swap where we are in the league. For me it is just about the concentration on performance, that is what our focus has been on and we have been performing to a real high level. "