15:00 GMT, Saturday 10th March, London Stadium (London, England)
The Hammers are slowly slipping back towards the danger zone after losing 3 of their last 4 league games. Two consecutive 4-1 defeats suggest that their problems are deepening and David Moyes must now stop the flow of goals which are hurting his side. In playing a team who have failed to score in 5 of their previous 7 away games, this could be the perfect opportunity for the Hammers to do just that.
While the Clarets have had a year to forget so far, they picked up their first win of 2018 last weekend, coming from behind to clinch victory for the first time this season. Sean Dyche has now guided his side to the fabled and of 40 points and will look to build on the confidence which returned to his players throughout last Saturday afternoon. With only 5 points the difference to 6th-place Arsenal, a late surge could see the Clarets in Europe next season but a win in London is needed before thoughts turn to potential future prestige.
Last Time Out
Swansea City 4-1 West Ham United (Premier League)
West Ham’s poor form continued at full pace as the Swans gave the Hammers a hammering in a match of few positives for David Moyes. It took only 8 minutes for West Ham to fall behind in this game after which they rarely threatened to get back on even terms.
Weak throughout the spine of the team, West Ham’s cause was not helped in the 27th minute when Winston Reid was stretchered from the pitch with a knee injury that has since ruled him out of the rest of this season.
Cheikhou Kouyaté was perhaps the biggest offender for his team, putting in a wretched performance which allowed the Swans far too much time and space to dictate play. Michail Antonio rose from the bench to provide a goal and a small measure of dignity for the Hammers but while his display was enough to earn him a start this weekend, most of his teammates will need to improve if they’re to keep their own place in the side.
Burnley 2-1 Everton (Premier League)
The Clarets fought back to overturn a half-time lead and claim their first victory in 12 games with a rousing second-half display. While Burnley had started the game well, Everton took the lead after 20 minutes with Jordan Pickford performing heroics in the Toffees goal to prevent the Clarets coming back into the match.
A switch at half-time saw Dyche remove Jeff Hendrick for Chris Wood, dropping the impressive Ashley Barnes into Hendrick’s former position behind the main striker.
There was also more emphasis on playing more concise passes and the quick play by Burnley left Everton chasing shadows. With Wood and Barnes proving too much for Everton to handle, they grabbed a goal each to fire their team ahead and to a deserved three points.
West Ham Lineup
Arthur Masuaku remains suspended while Winston Reid (knee) Sam Byram (ankle) Pedro Obiang (knee) Edimilson Fernandes (ankle) and Andy Carroll (ankle) all continue to receive treatment away from the starting lineup. Having tried to play a 3-4-3 formation in recent games, Moyes is expected to stick with this tactic but should see Antonio return to the side and may prefer to play Marko Arnautović at the tip of attack to provide more presence than Javier Hernández who finds himself too isolated in this formation.
Tom Heaton (shoulder) is creeping ever-nearer to making his return but will miss this match along with Steven Defour (knee) Scott Arfield (calf) Robbie Brady (knee) and Jonathan Walters (knee). Having seen Jeff Hendrick continue his recent poor form, Dyche could well start with the team who played the second half against Everton last Saturday.
Key Battle: Patrice Evra and Pablo Zabaleta (West Ham) vs Aaron Lennon and Johann Berg Gudmundsson (Burnley)
West Ham’s ageing wing-backs have failed to provide either the energy needed for their role or the experience which should be a given for two players with plenty of history behind them in the game. Providing neither an effective attacking outlet or a sturdy defensive base for their teammates, Moyes is likely to persist with these ageing stars for this match, however, its increasingly looking like their respective final season in the English top-flight unless they can drastically turn around their current form.
If they’re to prove recent form wrong, the West Ham wing-backs will need to nullify Burnley’s greatest threat. Dyche focuses most his team’s attacks down the wide areas of the pitch to supply ammunition to his forwards. Gudmundsson has been the Clarets best and most consistent player for much of this season while Lennon returned to Everton last weekend to run his old club ragged. As the man-of-the-match against the Toffees, Lennon has rekindled his form at Burnley and will be a handful again this weekend with pace to burn against the slowing wing-backs.
Bad to worse
West Ham have endured plenty of bad publicity away from the pitch this season, however, yet more bad news fell into the club’s lap earlier this week. A £30,000 fine was handed to the club for breaching the anti-doping rules laid down to all clubs in the league.
While the club is adamant that this was purely an administrative error, the Football Association cited 3 separate occurrences of the rules being broken this season which amounts to a sustained failure by the club’s hierarchy.
With doubts already filling fans minds as to the capabilities of their board members, failing to adhere to basic administrative procedures is just another reason to doubt their suitability to lead the club effectively or with dignity.
Last weekend was only the 5th time in the league this season which Burnley have scored more than once. These goals came in the second half after introducing Chris Wood in attack along with Ashley Barnes to give more presence to the Clarets attack.
Having spent most last season using a 4-4-2 formation, Dyche has switched this to a favoured 4-5-1 this season and largely kept with this system against Everton. Barnes may be an unorthodox “number 10”, however, he proved highly effective in this role last weekend and could provide real problems to West Ham’s porous defence on Saturday.
Prediction: West Ham United 0-2 Burnley
West Ham are unbeaten in the 5 matches they’ve played at home during this calendar year, however, there is a distinct lack of confidence in their dressing room. The Hammers will be desperate for a reaction to recent results in front of their own fans but if they fail to start the game well, the crowd could quickly turn on the home team. Burnley are masters of keeping a game tight and may just find a way of bullying the West Ham defence into conceding more than once to give the Clarets their first win in the capital since their notable opening game of the season.
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