The three-Test series, which marks the return of international cricket after the coronavirus shutdown, starts tomorrow (July 8) in Southampton behind closed doors.
Jason Holder’s tourists boast a powerful pace attack but their batsmen have struggled to post challenging totals in recent years.
“They have to be able to pounce immediately,” Lara said in comments on BBC Sport. “England are not beaten very easily at home and are overwhelming favourites.”
Lara, who scored a record 11,953 runs for West Indies in 131 Tests, said it was vital the tourists adapted to English conditions quickly.
“They have to hit the road running and stamp their authority on England,” said the 51-year-old.
“I don’t think they can last five days, so they have to take these games in four days. They have to establish a lead and keep it.”
West Indies, who beat England 2-1 in the Caribbean last year, have not won a series in England since 1988.
“It’s going to be a series that’s watched all around the world and everybody is hoping to see a competitive series,” said Lara, who scored 34 Test centuries.
“It would mean a lot to all West Indians if they could win.
“If they play good cricket on the first day of the Test series, show they have the mettle to perform against England, that’s the key.”
The second and third Tests will be played at Old Trafford, in Manchester, also in bio-secure environments.