David Moyes is hopeful that Michail Antonio can lead the West Ham United attack at home to Sheffield United on Monday night.
The striker sat out the Irons’ FA Cup fifth-round defeat to Manchester United on Tuesday after showing signs of serious fatigue against Fulham, but has progressed well in training over the week.
Andriy Yarmolenko started at striker in place of Antonio though the allegedly transfer-listed winger sustained knee ligament damage at Old Trafford, and will join Fabian Balbuena and Angelo Ogbonna on the sidelines.
Ogbonna has started all 23 of West Ham’s Premier League fixtures so far this season but his absence will now force Moyes into a change at the back. So, with that in mind, here’s a potential XI West Ham could field at home to Sheffield United…
Lukasz Fabianski produced an unbelievable save to deny Victor Lindelof on Tuesday when the Manchester United defender’s deflected header almost wrong-footed the goalkeeper, but he will have been frustrated by Scott McTominay’s eventual winner with the midfielder’s shot fired close to his body.
Yet the Poland international’s place in goal is undisputed, and he will hope to record his eighth clean sheet of the Premier League season against Sheffield United despite lining up behind a slightly changed back four after Ogbonna sustained a high ankle sprain in the FA Cup.
Balbuena will be unable to take over Ogbonna’s position after he developed a calf strain in the warm-up at Old Trafford, and he to is a doubt for the Blades’ visit to the London Stadium, thus leaving Issa Diop as Craig Dawson’s expected partner.
Diop had been taken off against Manchester United after a clash of heads with Anthony Martial but did not suffer a concussion, and is expected to be available alongside Antonio on Monday night.
“He [Antonio] is doing well,” Moyes said on Friday. “He’s done a little bit on the grass and we’re trying to get him back quickly, so hopefully he will be very close for the weekend.
“Issa is fine and he was fine immediately after and he actually came in and did some training the next day [Wednesday], so I have no problem with Issa as far as that concern goes.”
Aaron Cresswell and Vladimir Coufal will be expected to occupy the two full-back slots in Moyes’ back four against Sheffield United, while Tomas Soucek will likely return to his deep-lying midfield role beside Declan Rice in the engine room.
Soucek occupied a more advanced slot against Manchester United with January loan signing Jesse Lingard ineligible to play against his parent side, but the Czech dropping deeper will force Mark Noble back out of the starting line-up with the £9m-rated Red devils playmaker now available for selection again.
Said Benrahma will also be expected to feature in the attacking midfield line after being rested at Old Trafford, likely at the expense of Pablo Fornals who lacked a clinical edge in the final third to match his ever-present tireless workrate.
AND in other news, West Ham are willing to take a £19m hit to offload an £85k-p/w flop…