West Ham face Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League’s opening clash this weekend and this London derby rarely fails to deliver with plenty of shock results, dramatic moments and sublime goals down the years.
With neither side quite getting the kind of results they’d hoped for during the first five games of the season, both will be eager to leave the London Stadium with all three points on Saturday. So are we in for another classic or will the coming edition turn out to be a damp squib?
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the 12.30pm kickoff…
Although Tottenham enter Saturday’s game as favourites on paper, there really isn’t that much to choose between the two teams from their encounters in the Premier League down the years.
Indeed, wins, games failed to score in and goals scored are on a relatively even pegging considering these two sides have met 42 times, although the Hammers have picked up more than three times as many red cards – suggesting they’ve been put under far more pressure than Tottenham in this fixture.
That being said, West Ham’s win rate in East London is mightily impressive considering Spurs have finished higher in the table more often than not, claiming victory from almost half of the 21 meetings on the Irons’ patch.
Michael Oliver isn’t a particularly popular referee, even by refereeing standards, but his style should suit what will likely be a full-blooded clash in an incredibly hostile London Stadium.
Despite the criticism the 32-year-old often receives, he ranked in the bottom half of Premier League referees for fouls per game, fouls per tackle and cards per game throughout 2016/17, suggesting a somewhat lenient approach in what will be a highly-physical, hotly contested derby that could quickly bubble over.
His home win-rate last season couples up nicely with West Ham’s against Spurs on their own patch, but the concern for both teams should be the number of penalties Oliver awarded last season – he’s issued just one so far this year, so there could be another coming on Saturday.
West Ham will be without Manuel Lanzini once again this weekend, which has been the case for the vast majority of the season.
That is a concern for the Irons; the Argentine maestro is their chief creator and undoubtedly their most important asset when it comes to linking the midfield with the attack, although it’s not quite clear what position he would take in the expected 3-4-3 setup anyway.
The other major blows are James Collins, who starred in the clean sheets against Huddersfield and West Brom, and Pedro Obiang, who netted against the Terriers to kickstart the Irons’ run of four points from two games.
Angelo Ogbonna and Mark Noble look set to come into the side respectively, but both came under heavy criticism for their performances earlier in the season. Aside from that, Edimilson Fernandes is a doubt, but he’s very much a bit-part player for Slaven Bilic.
Tottenham have no new injuries ahead of the visit to east London but two long-term absences still feel significant – Danny Rose and Victor Wanyama. They both get into Tottenham’s starting XI when fit and provide real physicality and dynamism in crucial positions, the left wing-back role and the heart of midfield respectively.
That being said, Ben Davies has been nothing short of exceptional for Spurs this season, despite often drawing criticism from fans in the past, and Eric Dier is a dependable option if not exactly a world-beater. Mousa Dembele may start instead of Moussa Sissoko, but he could be rested ahead of Tottenham’s Champions League duties in midweek.
The other casualty is Erik Lamela, but Tottenham are used to preparing for matches without the crocked Argentine.