Liverpool vs West Ham, FA Cup: Buoyant Slaven Bilic wants Hammers to clinch Reds hat-trick

Bilic will have to make changes, with new right-back Sam Byram Cup-tied, having played in the third round for Leeds United

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The Independent Football

Slaven Bilic, the West Ham manager, has already beaten Liverpool twice this season and will aim for an unlikely hat-trick as his team go to Anfield for their FA Cup fourth-round tie tonight. It is a ground full of memories for Bilic, who went there as a fan in 1999 when he played for Everton, but this evening he wants to take his side there as equals, and will be fielding a strong XI.

“If I didn’t believe that we can go through then we would put kids in again on Saturday, as we have a big game on Tuesday against Aston Villa,” Bilic said. “But I really believe we have a chance to knock them out. Liverpool are on fire because of their result on Tuesday, they play at home, and they have some great  players, of course. 

“But on the other hand we want it, we are hungry, we have a good team, we are in good form, we are quite  consistent the whole season. Of course, we are very, very optimistic.”

Bilic will have to make changes, with new right-back Sam Byram Cup-tied, having played in the third round for Leeds United. Andy Carroll will not return to training until next week, while Manuel Lanzini and Diafra Sakho are at least two weeks away from full fitness.

Liverpool, though, played for 120 minutes against Stoke on Tuesday night in their Capital One Cup semi-final before winning through to Wembley in a penalty shoot-out. After those exertions, Bilic believes his Liverpool counterpart, Jürgen Klopp, will make changes of his own.

“I am not expecting many of the guys who played 120 minutes on Tuesday to play on Saturday,” Bilic said. “We are going to make some changes. But we are prepared to face their best side. They have a big squad, some players who are back like [Dejan] Lovren, [Nathaniel] Clyne,” he said. west hamn

“They have [Christian] Benteke, Joe Allen, [Jordon] Ibe. I don’t think it’s going to be the team that played Exeter City [in the third round]. It’s going to be a strong side, definitely.”

Bilic said that, ultimately, the best way to maintain fitness was by playing games, and that constant competition helped to keep players fresh. “When you get yourself in the rhythm of playing then there is no better way to maintain fitness than by playing and playing and playing,” he claimed. “If it was the other way round then the big clubs like Barcelona or Real Madrid, or the ones who are playing in the Champions League or all the cups would never be fit.”