A new challenge for David Moyes new look West Ham as they face a Newcastle side on the slide that should and must be beaten in order to put some daylight between ourselves and the other relegation threatened clubs. The bonus points earned against Chelsea and Arsenal and the decision to take it easy in the EFL cup quarter final will count for nothing if the Hammers are not able to see off one of our fellow strugglers on home turf.
Earlier in the season confidence was high for the visit to St James Park but in one of many poor performances West Ham were easily brushed aside by a Matt Ritchie inspired Newcastle. Rafael Bernitez’s side then embarked on something of a mini purple patch only to fall back badly more recently to currently sit firmly in the relegation danger zone, where many predicted is their rightful place given the current squad.
The test for West Ham is to take the newly discovered defensive resilience and add in sufficient goal threat to break down a visiting team who are also likely to defend in numbers – and to do this without the main creative force in the shape of the suspended Manuel Lanzini. It has been a rare occurrence in recent seasons for the Hammers to deliver a dominant home performance, whether at Upton Park or the London Stadium, and today would be an ideal opportunity to put that right.
Head to Head
Despite the overall record against Newcastle falling in our visitor’s favour West Ham have dominated the games in London, winning thirty-one and losing sixteen out of sixty-four encounters. In the last twelve home games the Hammers have won five, lost four and drawn three.
Of the last twelve meetings, home and away, Newcastle have won six to West Ham’s three.
Lanzini’s suspension adds to the selection problems in midfield where there are also doubts about Michail Antonio, Mark Noble, Cheikhou Kouyate and Edmilson Fernandes. If both Noble and Kouyate are out then it could mean another midfield run-out for Declan Rice although I am still not convince by him as a midfield option. My suspicion is that both Antonio and Kouyate will be available.
With Diafra Sakho continuing to be experiencing reported manager conflicts there could well be a start for Javier Hernandez today to prove he can perform in a Moyes set-up.
For Newcastle, Shelvey is suspended and Mitrovic is absent through injury.
Man in the Middle
Lee Mason from Lancashire is today’s referee. Mason was in charge for the game against Southampton at St Mary’s earlier in the season where he (rightly) sent off Marko Arnautovic and awarded a last minute penalty for a foul by Pablo Zabaleta.
In his twelve games this season he has thirty-three yellow and two red cards to his name.
In a rare alignment both Lawro and Merson say 2-0 to the Hammers. It will be interesting to see the shape and game-plan that Moyes employs in these types of games and there is sure to be an element of caution underpinning whatever creativity we can muster without Lanzini. I am hopeful that we have too much for Newcastle to deal with and will plump for three more points in a 2-1 home win.