David Moyes will hope to see an instant response from his players following last weekend’s 3-2 defeat at Newcastle when West Ham United host Chelsea on Saturday evening.
The Hammers fell two goals and a man down at St. James’ Park before mounting a second-half comeback, only to leave Tyneside without a point after Joe Willock headed home in the closing stages.
Chelsea then compounded the misery by retaking fourth spot in the Premier League table when held to a goalless draw by Brighton & Hove Albion in midweek, but only sit above the Irons on goal difference due to a superior defensive record.
Craig Dawson’s first-half red card will ensure Moyes is forced to make changes from the side that lost at Newcastle. So, with that in mind, here’s a potential line-up the West Ham boss could field featuring three alterations…
Dawson being unavailable for his first Premier League fixture since his West Ham debut on December 29 leaves Moyes with a decision to make, over sticking with a five-man backline or adapting his system with the inclusion of an additional midfield option.
Fabian Balbuena will expect Moyes to favour continuity and start the Paraguayan – who journalist Sam Delaney believes was “brilliant” last season – for his first opening call in 17 top-flight games, having come on for Aaron Creswell when leading against Leicester City.
Moyes decided against calling on Balbuena at Newcastle with West Ham going a goal behind in the move that led to Dawson’s sending off, but may now opt to recall the centre-back with Creswell potentially available to retake the left-back position from Ben Johnson.
Cresswell was unavailable in the North East due to the hamstring injury he sustained at home to Leicester, but Moyes confirmed on Friday that he is closing in on a return and will take a late fitness test to see if the 31-year-old has recovered sufficiently to face Chelsea.
Michail Antonio (hamstring), Arthur Masuaku (knee) and Declan Rice (knee) have been ruled out of Saturday’s London derby, while Jesse Lingard is expected to be fit after being withdrawn at Newcastle due to cramp.
Rice being unavailable will likely see Mark Noble and Tomas Soucek anchor the engine room once again, while Antonio’s absence will be expected to see Jarrod Bowen and Lingard lead the attack for the third successive Premier League game.
Pablo Fornals has started each of West Ham’s last three fixtures after overcoming a groin injury during the March international break, but struggled to shine at Newcastle where his influence fizzled out and his loose backpass led to Dawson receiving his initial caution.
Moyes could now look to bench the Spaniard – who he lauds for having “incredible” energy and enthusiasm – and replace him with Said Benrahma, who has offered one more assist than Fornals despite playing 964 fewer minutes in the Premier League this term.