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West Ham United host Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday afternoon at the London Stadium in what is sure to be a highly entertaining Premier League battle. 

The visitors arrive in excellent form, having won their last three league fixtures in succession. Spurs currently find themselves in fifth place, with six wins and 18 points already on the board – their best ever start to a Premier League campaign. However, a suspicion remains that Mauricio Pochettino’s side are yet to really hit their stride performance-wise and there is still plenty to come from the North Londoners this season.

The Hammers, meanwhile, after a nightmare start to life under Manuel Pellegrini, have righted the ship in recent weeks. The Chilean looks to have finally settled upon his strongest XI and good results have followed, including an impressive 3-1 victory over Manchester United. Despite defeat at the hands of Brighton last time out, the confident home side will fancy their chances of getting a result against Spurs on Saturday.

Our Fixture in Focus match preview will cover everything you need to know ahead of this weekend’s London derby clash, providing you with the latest team news, a look back at the history books and analysis of how the appointed referee may influence the outcome of the match…

What History Tells Us

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Over the years, Spurs have just about had the edge in this fixture. 

In 44 Premier League meetings, Tottenham have emerged with all three points on 21 occasions, whilst West Ham have been triumphant 14 times (there is no Premier League side they have beaten more often), with spoils split on nine of the meetings. Meanwhile, the overall goal difference for this match up is +11 in Spurs’ favour.

In terms of the overall Premier League head-to-head record between the two teams Tottenham have the upper hand, but when it comes to playing on the Hammers’ own patch the balance of the tie shifts. In the last five league meetings (going back to May 2014) between these great old London clubs to have taken place on West Ham’s soil, the home side have won on three occasions.

At the very least, expect a hard-fought, closely contested affair in Stratford on Saturday. It’s derby day, after all, and both sides will be desperate to send their fans home happy.

Key Battle – Manuel Pellegrini vs Mauricio Pochettino

Whilst Spurs may have the better of the Irons in the clubs’ overall Premier League head-to-head battle, Pellegrini’s track record against Pochettino ought to be a cause for great optimism amongst West Ham fans.

The home team’s boss has asserted his superiority over Pochettino on nine occasions in total, whilst he has only fallen to defeat to sides managed by the Argentine twice before. In the process, the veteran coach’s teams have scored 25 goals against Pochettino’s men, whilst conceding just eleven in return and keeping six clean sheets. 

That being said, many of those victories came with Pellegrini at the helm of his title winning Manchester City side. With the 65-year-old now cast as the underdog, Pochettino will fancy his chances of breaking the curse and inflicting some revenge upon the manager who has triumphed over him all too often in the past.

Ref in Focus – Martin Atkinson

17 referees have overseen Premier League matches so far this season. Of that number, Martin Atkinson ranks seventh in terms of fouls per game, with 22.63 per match on average. Out of the 17, Atkinson comes sixth for fouls per tackle, which suggests that whilst he makes efforts to let the game flow, he won’t be afraid to use his whistle if he feels the derby starting to get overly competitive.

Over the course of the eight top flight encounters the 47-year-old has overseen so far during this campaign, he has shown 29 yellow cards. Only one referee – Anthony Taylor – has put more players in the book. Atkinson has shown yellow cards at an average rate of 3.63 per game, so expect to see a few more added to his tally on Saturday afternoon. However, he is yet to show a red card this season.

Atkinson seems to be a sensible refereeing appointment for what promises to be a hotly-contested game between these two famous old capital clubs. One factor Spurs fans will take no comfort in, though, is the fact that Atkinson has only witnessed away team victories in 13% of the Premier League matches he has officiated this season. A similarly morbid omen exists for the Hammers too, as they have not secured a single victory under the watch of Atkinson since 2015.

Team News

With West Ham having lost their opening four games of the season whilst undergoing plenty of chopping and changing to the line up, Pellegrini has since deployed the exact same starting XI for the last four league fixtures. This consistency has brought about two wins and a draw. Therefore, it is unlikely that the Hammers boss shall deviate from this formula this weekend as he seeks to build positive momentum for his side. 

Declan Rice, Pedro Obiang and Mark Noble are almost certain to start in midfield and each member of the Hammers’ first choice forward line – Marko Arnautovic, Felipe Anderson, Andriy Yarmolenko – is practically undroppable at this stage.

Jan Vertonghen and Dele Alli are the two key figures set to be absent through injury for Spurs. Given that, Pochettino is likely to include Davinson Sanchez and Heung-min Son in his starting XI. A fitness boost comes in the form of Christian Erikisen’s availability, which will bring no comfort to Hammers fans.

Following an impressive international break, Harry Winks ought to retain his place alongside Mousa Dembele in the middle of the park.