David Moyes believes Michail Antonio can make the difference when West Ham host Liverpool on Sunday.
Antonio was missing through injury when the Hammers ran the champions close at Anfield in October, taking the lead through Pablo Fornals before going down to a Mohamed Salah penalty and a late Diogo Jota strike.
The striker is now back to full fitness and back at full steam, scoring winners against Burnley and West Brom and hitting the post twice in the 3-2 win at Crystal Palace which took West Ham temporarily above Liverpool into fourth.
And with Liverpool forced to field a patched-up defence, Moyes will be hoping his explosive frontman can inflict further damage on their title bid and lift West Ham back into the Champions League spots.
“I think Mickey’s made a difference to us all, certainly over the last year he’s made a really big difference,” said the Hammers boss.
“I hope his form continues and I think the other night against Palace was a night he could have ended up with three or four goals.
“The two games prior to that he got me the winning goals. So he’s really important to us. And I do believe that going to Anfield, if we’d had Mickey he’d have given us a better chance to get the result.
“I hope that proves to be the case in this game and that we can play as well, and that Mickey has his shooting boots on to give us the extra that we need.”
Liverpool are ‘an exceptional team’
The Reds had gone five matches without a victory until they beat Tottenham on Thursday, while West Ham have won six on the spin in all competitions.
But Moyes added: “Liverpool are an exceptional team. There have been very few poor times for Liverpool in the last few years.
“So it was always going to happen that somewhere along the line you get a little bit of a blip. But the game against Tottenham showed everybody what they are capable of.
“So we have to try and go into it in the form that we are in and take them on as much as we can. But in the same breath we’re really respectful of the quality they possess.”