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Liverpool defender ready for battle with West Ham star

23:08 08 December 2012

West Ham United

West Ham United's Carlton Cole (left) scores his side's first goal during the Barclays Premier League match at Upton Park, London.

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel is looking forward to the rough and tumble of the physical challenge posed by West Ham tomorrow.

The Slovakia defender may not have to face on-loan Anfield team-mate Andy Carroll, who would have been ineligible to play even if he had not been ruled out for two months with a knee injury, but expects a similar test from another big frontman, Carlton Cole.

Cole scored his first goal of the season in the 3-1 win over Chelsea last weekend and Skrtel knows he can be a handful - but that makes it even more enjoyable for the centre-back.

“For me personally it is better if they play with a big striker because that is what I like,” Skrtel said.

“I am more comfortable than playing against smaller guys.

“But it is no different who is playing, whether it was Andy or Carlton Cole.

“They are all dangerous and we have to focus and be careful for 90 minutes and don’t let them score.

“I am looking forward to it and I’ll try to do my best to make sure they don’t.

“It is going to be a difficult game because it is going to be physical and we have to be ready for that.

“We have to play our game and try to beat them and I hope the quality is on our side and we can beat them.”

Defensive stability has returned to some degree in the last few weeks combined with players other than Luis Suarez finding the net.

As a centre-back, Skrtel takes great pride in the former as he admits Liverpool were shaky in defence earlier in the season as the team tried to adjust to new manager Brendan Rodgers’ different ways of working.

“For me as a defender, but also for the whole team it is good when we don’t concede a goal because that is where we start from,” added the 27-year-old.

“If you don’t concede a goal you have a good chance of winning the game and I think we have tightened up in recent weeks.

“Of course we know from the beginning of the season it wasn’t working well because too many things had changed, but in the last few weeks we have started to play better and we are stronger at the back.”

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