West Ham travel north to take on Newcastle United in one of their seven remaining ‘cup finals’ as the Hammers aim to keep their unlikely Champions League challenge on track.
A win for David Moyes and his team will see West Ham leapfrog Leicester City into third, at least until the Foxes’ next play in the league on Thursday evening.
Three points will also ensure West Ham go into next weekend’s huge clash with European rivals Chelsea ahead of the Blues. And in case anyone needed it reminding in the league, Moyes’ team are serious contenders for Champions League football next season.
Another Hammer joining the duo on the sidelines is Aaron Cresswell. Until his 53rd minute substitution due to a hamstring injury, the defender had been an ever-present in the West Ham backline this season but will likely miss this weekend’s game with a hamstring injury.
The good news for Cresswell is the injury is reported to not be as bad as first feared and Moyes confirmed he was a doubt for today’s game but hopeful of a quick return.
More good news for the Hammers is the likely return of Angelo Ogbonna to the team. The Italian has been out since early February with an ankle injury. Moyes did not confirm the defender’s availability but he looks set to return shortly, if he is unavailable this weekend Fabian Balbuena will step up in his absence.
The timing of Ogbonna’s return could not be better considering Cresswell’s issue and the Italian international is expected to come straight back into the team as one of three centre-backs alongside Craig Dawson and Issa Diop
With that in mind here is the team we at football.london expect Moyes to pick at St James’ Park
Predicted XI: Fabianski, Coufal, Dawson, Diop, Ogbonna, Masuaku, Noble, Soucek, Fornals, Lingard, Bowen
The enforced change of Ogbonna for Cresswell is the only one we expect Moyes to make, with nine goals scored in their past three matches no changes will be required to the attacking side of things.
However, Moyes will hope Ogbonna’s introduction will bring some solidity to a defence that has conceded seven in three.
Two options Moyes might consider in order to provide extra protection against the threat of Allan Saint-Maximin is to either play the more defensive-minded Ben Johnson instead of Arthur Masuaku or to revert to a 4-2-3-1 formation he has used previously.
This would allow Moyes to adopt a similar approach he took to dealing with Jack Grealish against Aston Villa albeit on the opposite flank. At Villa Park, Moyes opted to play Ryan Fredericks ahead of Vladimir Coufal with the duo doubling up on Villa’s danger man and stopping Aston Villa’s creative fulcrum.
It is unlikely Moyes will opt for the same approach against Saint-Maximin but with the flexibility his players have shown in the positional and tactical play, were the Frenchman to be seeing too much of the ball this is an option the Scot might move towards later in the game.
Noble and Soucek have formed a solid partnership in the absence of Rice and will continue again this afternoon for West Ham with Pablo Fornals also sure to start.
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Jarrod Bowen has three in three and will no doubt lead the line with Jesse Lingard guaranteed a position from the off as the attacking-midfielder looks to continue his phenomenal run in the Hammers line-up.
Manuel Lanzini should be named on the bench for the first time since West ham faced Arsenal and will provide an attacking option along with Said Benrahma and Mipo Odubeko.
Defensive cover will once again come in the form of Fabian Balbuena, Fredericks, Johnson and Alves should Moyes require it.