20:00 KO (BST). Friday 20th October, London Stadium (London, England), Sky Sports
Slaven Bilic is a manager under pressure after a start which saw the Hammers lose each of their first three league fixtures. However, a single defeat from five games has provided him with some respite from the negative headlines. With five clean sheets from their last seven home games and a full complement of attacking talent to choose from, the future’s beginning to look a lot brighter for the East London club.
Brighton head into this fixture level on points with their opponents having averaged a league point every game. The key for Chris Hughton’s men remains their home form, with the South coast club collecting all but one of their points at the AMEX Stadium. A trip to London beckons this weekend though,
Last Time Out
Burnley 1 – 1 West Ham (Premier League)
After Michail Antonio had capitalised on a Ben Mee error to reward the Hammers good start to the game, the promising start to the game was undermined by an act of petulance and ill-discipline from Andy Carroll.
Going into a tackle with James Tarkowski, Carroll received a yellow card from the referee who adjudged him to have led with his elbow in making the challenge. After disputing the decision, Carroll repeated the offense 99 seconds after the first to receive his marching orders. It provided a fundamental shift in the balance of the game and, with over an hour still to play, West Ham were unable to hang onto their lead as Burnley ground out a late equaliser through the prolific Chris Wood.
Brighton 1 – 1 Everton (Premier League)
A largely uninspiring game, this one was only jolted from its soporific state in the frantic final 10 minutes. After the Seagulls had slowly grown in stature throughout the game, Anthony Knockaert was on hand to convert a loose ball in the box in the 82nd minute. Before that, Brighton had enjoyed the only two real chances. However, a Wayne Rooney penalty levelled the scores in the 90th minute. Soon after goalkeeper Matthew Ryan earned his wages with a fine save to ensure the Seagulls didn’t finish the game empty-handed.
West Ham Lineup
Andy Carroll joins James Collins (ankle) on the sidelines for this fixture after his foolish two-yellow sending off last weekend has him serving a one-match ban.
Edimilson Fernandes (fitness) could also be a doubt for Bilic who may opt to play the same lineup as last weekend but with André Ayew directly replacing the suspended Carroll.
Tomer Hemed serves the third of a three-match ban after retrospectively being awarded a red card from the Newcastle clash. Beram Kayal (leg) Steve Sidwell (back) and Sam Baldock (calf) all remain unavailable for the Seagulls and Shane Duffy is also considered doubtful following a groin strain which saw him substituted in the 73rd minute against Everton.
Uwe Hünemeier could play in the defender’s place, while Glenn Murray may see himself drop out of the team altogether after a poor game last weekend. If this happens, expect to see Izzy Brown playing the number 10 role and Pascal Groß being pushed higher up the pitch.
Key Battle: Manuel Lanzini vs Pascal Groß
West Ham have slowly found an attacking edge to their game with the return of their forwards from respective injuries and suspensions. Following his impressive displays at the end of last season when injuries allowed him a run of games from the starting lineup, Lanzini could be the key player for the Hammers this season. With West Ham’s record showing a win rate increasing from 29% to 39% with Lanzini in the side, the number 10 can prove to be the main spark of creativity which the Hammers were largely lacking during the opening games of this campaign.
Almost all of Brighton’s attacking hopes lie with Pascal Groß this weekend, with the German responsible for all but one of their league goals this season. With two goals and three assists in the Premiership, Groß is a vitally important player for Hughton with everything going forward flowing through the talented forward. This has seen him create the same number of chances as Kevin de Bruyne (21) in the Premiership this term and he will again need to provide for his team on Friday with Tomer Hemed still missing from action.
Keep it Short
Without the battering ram known as Andy Carroll, Javier Hernández will be the main focal point of West Ham’s attacks once more. The little pea has not had as much impact at his new club as many expected him to provide: his three goals from eight league games should be viewed within the wider context of his inability to find the target during five of these matches.
Bilic has used the forward on the left wing. However, most of his game time has been in his favoured central role. The problem is more likely to be due to an increase in long balls with the average passes per match showing 35 fewer short passes and 10 extra long balls being played. Playing direct does not suit Chicharito’s style and Bilic must use his creative players to bring his striker into the game to allow him to do what he’s good at.
Knocking on the Door
Anthony Knockaert has had a slow start to life in the Premier League but his goal tally in the top-flight is now up and running after his strike last weekend. His overall display was more pleasing than the end result last against Everton after struggling to find the form which saw him lift his team out of the Championship last season.
As Brighton now head into a game in which both sides lack any real pace in attack, Knockaert’s directness could be a major difference between the two sides. With pace and creativity, a fully fit and firing Knockaert could have almost the same impact as Wilfried Zaha enjoys at Palace.
Prediction: West Ham United 1 – 1 Brighton & Hove Albion
This game will see two sides who are both slowly building confidence collide after respective shaky starts to the season. Having beaten Huddersfield and Swansea at home this season, West Ham should be able to make home advantage count against the newly-promoted side. However, Brighton are finding their feet and are capable of holding their own against a Hammers team who have yet to click into gear.
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