Itâ€™s Der Hammer Time on Saturday as Hitzlsperger and the Hamsters (what a fine popular beat combo they sound) come to WHL for a lunchtime kick-off. We seem to have barely roused ourselves in the last few weeks, the draws against Wolves and AC Milan being our only appearances since the defeat to Blackpool nearly a month ago. That hasnâ€™t stopped the injury scares though with Palacios and Gallas the latest to wound themselves whilst they presumably have been doing little more than arseing about on the training ground. The news appears to be better than initially expected on Gallas which is a relief given his relative experience compared to potential replacements if nothing else.
Not having to lace his boots in the last ten days appears to have done the reputation of Sandro rocketing. His performance against Milan is on the verge of going down as some sort of Horatius defending the bridge and saving Rome from invasion type achievement. He did indeed play well and heâ€™ll have to again if Saturdayâ€™s game is to be the home banker that many are predicting. Whilst West Ham havenâ€™t totally turned a corner theyâ€™re having a pretty good peek around it. Their recent good run (they have scored three times in four of their last five league games) has coincided with the raising from the dead of the aforementioned Hitzlsperger and his addition to a fierce looking midfield that already contains Parker and Noble. Up front Demba Ba has supplemented Piquionne and Cole and overall they seem pretty injury free, unlike us.
By the time the away fans have launched their first anti-Harry rant weâ€™ll have been drawn from the goldfish bowl in Switzerland and will know who we face in the last eight of the Moneybags League. Itâ€™s hard not to see this being a boost. If anything will encourage the players to shake off any ring rustiness they feel it will be a reminder that the fun weâ€™ve had in this yearâ€™s competition wonâ€™t be repeated next year unless either Ledley ends up lifting the trophy at Wembley in May or we once again finish the season with a run to the line to match the 1973 Grand National effort of Red Rum
Itâ€™s April 1999 since West Ham last won at our place, when Redknapp was manager in fact, and theyâ€™ve not scored since 2005. Avram Grant though does have something of a knack when it comes to getting results against us. Both Portsmouthâ€™s win at Wembley last season and our loss at Upton Park this season were surprises. In Septemberâ€™s game we fielded a makeshift centre back pairing of Bassong and Corluka and that, as well as careless finishing from Huddlestone and some top keeping from Green is what cost us. This time out we may again have to field an unreliable pairing as after his performance at Bloomfield Rd, the coupling of Bassong with anyone has an aura of an accident waiting to happen.
To counter the dodginess at the back we should hopefully have Bale back and also a presumably raring to go Defoe. Three points will put us level with Chelsea until Sunday afternoon at least. A loss could see us six points behind by the end of the weekend. Thereâ€™ll be goals aplenty I suspect and as usual, itâ€™s important that we take our chances when they come and keep mistakes at the back to a minimum.
Mike Dean is the referee. COYS.
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