David Moyes faces another Premier League test without star striker Michail Antonio when West Ham United visit Leeds after revealing the striker is yet to overcome his hamstring injury.
Antonio missed the Irons’ 3-1 defeat to Manchester United last weekend after limping off at home to Aston Villa having sustained a second hamstring injury of the season, separate to the blow which prevented his involvement in three fixtures.
Sebastien Haller led the line once more in place of Antonio against the Red Devils but failed to light up the stage, letting a golden chance to double the hosts’ advantage and pen his third goal of the league season go to waste by slipping after rounding Dean Henderson.
Doubt has since risen over Haller’s involvement in Friday’s meeting with Leeds, which could see West Ham move up to fifth in the standings. So, with that in mind, here’s a predicted XI Moyes could favour at Elland Road…
Moyes has been reluctant to deviate from his tried-and-tested line-up for much of the Premier League season, with Lukasz Fabianski, Aaron Cresswell, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Jarrod Bowen and Pablo Fornals each starting all 11 Premier League fixtures to date.
Arthur Masuaku has only missed the Hammers’ opening day defeat at home to Newcastle, starting the following 10, and would have expected to join the aforementioned septet plus summer signing Vladimir Coufal in extending their run in the opening XI.
But just a day before facing Leeds, the DR Congo international announced in a now-deleted Instagram post that he will be facing a lengthy spell out of action following surgery to fix a knee injury that has caused the 27-year-old pain for almost two years.
“Today I’m having a knee surgery to help me remove the pain that’s been bothering me for nearly 2 years now,” he wrote via quotes by the Evening Standard. “It’s been a very difficult decision to make, but for my good being and the rest of my career I have to take it.”
Cresswell should now return to the left-back slot vacated for Masuaku after the Newcastle loss, allowing for Issa Diop to make his first start since recovering from coronavirus having been resigned to a seat on the bench since
Moyes has also confirmed doubt lingers over Antonio’s involvement as he bids to overcome his latest hamstring strain.
“It’s probably doubtful on Michail,” Moyes conceded. “He’s still recovering, so at this moment in time, he’s more than likely doubtful for the game. Most of the rest of the squad are okay at the moment.”
Doubt over Antonio’s fitness could see Haller again start, yet speculation has surfaced suggesting summer signing Said Benrahma may be awarded his first start in claret and blue at striker rather than his natural position on the wing.
Benrahma has only been utilised as a designated centre-forward on seven occasions throughout his career, though the Algerian wizard – who contributed 17 goals and 10 assists for Brentford last season – is a player Bees boss Thomas Frank would fear matching up against.
“He’s a big influence,” Frank admitted in 2019, via quotes by football.london. “He’s a quality player with top skills but also finishing skills. We actually worked very hard with him to arrive in the box at the right situations.
“He just wants to get on the ball and get involved. In there when he’s turning and running at people – oof, I don’t want to defend against him! He’s starting to set up the other players even more because that’s the next level for his game.”