Last night’s draw in South London was good for us given that our ambition for the remainder of the league season must be to finish above two of Chelsea, Woolwich, Man Utd and Liverpool. The sharing of the points gives us a chance to make ground, it’s only any good of course if we can see off the pesky Hamsters tonight at our inglorious home from home.
A win would leave us fifth but Liverpool’s next game and Van Dijk’s probable debut is against Man City whilst we take on Everton at home after this so we’d have a chance to leap frog them whilst a little daylight (not enough to get carried away with of course) would open below us.
Motivation will I suspect not be a problem tonight for David Moyes as he takes charge of West Ham in a Cup Final for the first time. Their league form since Bilic was binned has been somewhat contrary. They followed up a solid performance against all conquering Citeh with a win against Chelsea and a draw against the Gooners; in their last three matches though they have struggled against teams from the lower reaches conceding three each versus Newcastle and Bournemouth and one against West Brom, which is like conceding three.
They’re in a perilous position, one point above the relegation zone in sixteenth however a win tonight would lift them to eleventh such is the bunching together in the lower half of the table. They played on Tuesday and won against the Baggies despite going behind, Andy Carroll kept his elbows to himself for a change and proved to be the match winning hero… what a state to get into.
They’ll probably go for three at the back despite the absence of Collins and possibly Cresswell. Apparently Fonte and Byram as well as Antonio and Fernandes are also out which leaves Ogbonna, Reid and Zabaleta as the three with Masuaku and AN Other as the wing backs. Arnautovic, Lanzini and Carroll make up the attack with Kouyate and Obiang/Noble holding in midfield. Hmm.
On paper, it’s an outfit we should be able to deal with but with West Ham there are other factors to take in to account, the biggest one being their perverse feeling that we’re their big rivals. I’ve never understood why they dislike us so much even compared to Arsenal and Chelsea but there you go.
We will be without Danny Rose for the foreseeable future by the sounds of it but other than the absence of Alderweireld we’ll be as close to full strength as we’ve been for a while as long as Kane has fully recovered from his sniffles and Dembele his latest hip niggle. Wanyama may get his first start since Chelsea (?) and Aurier will come in for Trippier which is important as much of West Ham’s play comes down their left. Both Sanchez and Aurier may have to keep their cool in their encounters with Carroll.
Bearing in mind that it’s the cup at the weekend we can expect Poch’s strongest side and if we show the form that we have been doing… well West Ham will have to do exceptionally to come out of the game with anything.
Maverick Mike Dean is the referee. COYS.