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Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United will go in search of five consecutive Premier League victories for the first time since February 2016 tomorrow afternoon, when they welcome Javier Gracia’s Watford to London Stadium.

With various players nearing a full return from injury and other players worth considering resting ahead of a frantic festive period, how will Pellegrini’s Hammers line up for the clash against a Hornets side unbeaten in two league matches? Today, we’re going to attempt to answer that question in our statistics-driven tactical analysis.

GK: Lukasz Fabianski

One place in the Irons starting Xl that certainly isn’t in contention, barring any last-minute injury worries, is the one between the sticks which will be occupied by Lukasz Fabianski, as it has been for every PL match this season. The Polish international will be going for his fourth clean sheet of the term in East London, and his third in the space of five matches.

RB: Pablo Zabaleta

On the right side of the expected four-man defence in our predicted team, which sees no changes from the win at Fulham, will be veteran full-back Pablo Zabaleta. Quashing rumours of an imminent retirement recently, he has been instrumental in the club’s four-game winning run this month, although the thought of resting the 33-year-old at a very busy time of year will undoubtedly be floating at the back of Pellegrini’s mind.

RCB: Fabian Balbuena

As part of a formidable centre-back partnership that has only failed to start one match in the league since late August, when fully fit, summer signing Fabian Balbuena has established himself as one of the first names on the teamsheet this term. Only ‘keeper Fabianski has played more PL minutes than ‘The General’ in 2018/2019 and he will be ensuring he keeps up with him against the Hertfordshire opposition.

LCB: Issa Diop

To the left of Balbuena as ever will be France under-21 international Issa Diop, with his run of starting every top-flight match since late in the first month of the season only set to continue on home soil. The youngsters’ performances in the last few months have attracted attention from some of Europe’s top clubs and Watford will have a task on their hands of trying to get anything past him on Saturday.

LB: Arthur Masuaku

One would feel that one of the more changeable positions in Pellegrini’s starting Xls at present is left-back, with Arthur Masuaku and Aaron Cresswell battling for the starting role all campaign long. Following on from his much-improved defensive display last weekend, we fully expect former to keep his place and make his 14th start of the campaign in all competitions.

RM: Robert Snodgrass

Forcing himself firmly into the reckoning for the Hammer of the Year award with the halfway point of the campaign almost upon us, Robert Snodgrass has been a regular since the back end of October. The Scotsman has been involved in five goals in the four-match hot streak of the Hammers that’s seen them climb to ninth and above Watford, scoring two and assisting three, making him a firm danger man.

RCM: Mark Noble (C)

Beside winger Snodgrass on the right side of a central midfield two will, without a shadow of a doubt, be his fellow 31-year-old and captain, Mark Noble. Like his Scottish comrade, the skipper has been rejuvenated under Pellegrini and we all know the man who’s recently signed a one-year contract extension’s Christmas dinner won’t taste the same unless his boyhood club can secure a historic three points in the final outing before the big day.

LCM: Declan Rice

Looking back on 2018 as it begins to draw to a close, it’s been a big year for West Ham’s famous Academy of Football and Declan Rice has been a huge part of that. It would be a major shock if the 19-year-old integral part of the team’s midfield wasn’t to carry on his run of not missing a Premier League starting Xl since the middle of September.

LM: Felipe Anderson

Another example of a Hammer whose form is very much matching that of his side as a whole at the moment is club-record signing Felipe Anderson, Pellegrini’s top scorer with six league goals this term. He will feature, like always, on the left wing where, cutting in on his right foot, he is currently one of the most dangerous players in the league. Five goals and one assist in his last seven.

RF: Michail Antonio

As we move into the traditional two up front the East Londoners gaffer is sure to field at London Stadium, we find the pacey Michail Antonio on the right side. A matter of weeks ago, it looked like his Hammers career was going to end in the January transfer window, but two goals in two starts in December is saying otherwise and if his impressive finish at Craven Cottage six days ago is anything to go by, he really is in the mood at the moment.

LF: Javier Hernandez

Partnering the former England international Antonio in attack will be Mexico’s all-time leading goalscorer Javier Hernandez, a player who’s been able to hold down a starting position alongside three different partners since the Newcastle United triumph on the first day of the month. Chicharito is chasing his 50th Premier League strike in the London derby, though don’t expect it to come from range as all of his 49 goals in the English top-flight have come from within the penalty area.

Formation: 4-4-2

Don’t expect Pellegrini to tinker with the formation that has gifted his team four league wins in succession, an old-fashioned but effective 4-2-2, which was first implemented three weeks ago at St. James’ Park. It will be intriguing to see how this system fares up against the preferred 4-2-2-2 of Gracia and the Hornets.

So, now that you’ve heard how Pellegrini’s West Ham will line up for tomorrow afternoon’s Watford clash, according to our analysis and prediction. We want to know what you think the Hammers starting Xl will look like. Simply head over to @WestHamMatters_ on Twitter to let us know your thoughts!

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