On the back of a first victory of any kind since beating Manchester United on September 29, over Sean Dyche’s Burnley in the Premier League at London Stadium last Saturday, Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United travel to face David Wagner’s Huddersfield Town tomorrow afternoon.
With captain Mark Noble serving the third game of his three-match suspension for a red card at Leicester City and seven first-team players still out injured, today, with under 24 hours to go until kick-off at the John Smith’s Stadium, we attempt to predict how West Ham will line up for the crucial match in Yorkshire.
GK: Lukasz Fabianski
Between the sticks for the Hammers at 3 PM tomorrow afternoon despite being overtaken by opposite number Joe Hart in the most saves in the PL this season category last weekend will, without a shadow of a doubt, be Lukasz Fabianski. The Polish International has undoubtedly been the pick of the club’s summer signings so far, but is still looking for a second clean sheet of the season, having only recorded one.
RB: Pablo Zabaleta (C)
Starting out in the right-back position within the back four as he has done in eight of the Irons’ 11 league matches this term will undoubtedly be veteran Pablo Zabaleta. The Argentine scored his last goal for former team Manchester City against Huddersfield and will also be buoyed to keep up his high standard of performance by having the captain’s armband in the absence of Noble.
RCB: Fabian Balbuena
As the right half of a new centre-back partnership that conceded more than one goal in a match for the first time since late-August in the aforementioned Clarets triumph, summer arrival Fabian Balbuena is one of the first names on the teamsheet for Pellegrini nowadays. Alongside Fabianski, the defender is the only player to have played every Premier League minute thus far for West Ham, that won’t change on Saturday.
LCB: Issa Diop
Alongside Balbuena will be his trusty partner Issa Diop, seven years his junior, in the centre of defence. The former French youth International and current subject of speculation linking him to his nation’s biggest club, PSG, has started every West Ham match in every competition since the middle of August and will be a hard nut for the Terriers to crack.
LB: Aaron Cresswell
Arguably the only current position in the starting team of the East Londoners to not be secured by a player is left-back, as Aaron Cresswell and Arthur Masuaku have tussled for it throughout the campaign. With an impressive performance in only his fourth start of 2018/2019 last time out, we think the England International has won the battle for now, a point backed up by ex-Hammer Kenny Brown in this week’s episode of the West Ham Matters Podcast.
RCDM: Pedro Obiang
As we move into the midfield-three of our predicted starting Xl, we find Spaniard Pedro Obiang, who is set to occupy the right central defensive midfield role. One of his rare three goals in Claret & Blue came against Huddersfield in September 2017 and he wouldn’t mind getting his first in ten months tomorrow.
CDM: Declan Rice
As rumours about his domestic and International future, not to mention his contract saga, rage on, Declan Rice will hold everything together at the base of midfield within what is regarded Pellegrini’s strongest possible side, at present. The 19-year-old has only missed out on the starting Xl in one match since the September International break and has been a standout performer in his new midfield role under Pellegrini.
LCDM: Robert Snodgrass
Impressively, Robert Snodgrass is still the only Hammer to have featured in every match in every competition this season and baaing any late injury worries, will not only feature, but start at the John Smith’s. With Noble suspended, he has more than taken his chance and may yet keep his place when the skipper returns after the International break.
RF: Grady Diangana
Fresh from his outstanding performance and first Premier League assist in his second Premier League start against Burnley and his first call-up to the England U20 squad, Academy of Football product Grady Diangana will be raring to go for his first trip to Huddersfield. To see him not start in a front three alongside Marko Arnautovic and Felipe Anderson would be a major surprise.
ST: Marko Arnautovic
The final two names in our West Ham predicted Xl are the two most in-form players in the team, first up is talisman Arnautovic. Before heading away to earn his 78th and 79th Austria caps, he will be as keen as ever to add to his eye-catching tally of five club goals for the campaign, he is already the Hammers’ top-scorer, much like last season.
LF: Felipe Anderson
However, the man more in-form than Arnautovic having scored one more goal than him last Saturday is club-record signing Anderson, who rounds off the side as left forward within the front three. His match-winning brace exactly seven days before tomorrow’s clash in Yorkshire took him up to three for the season and he will be looking to avoid a repeat of the dire form that followed his first strike for his new team against the Red Devils.
The formation that these players are set to be arranged in won’t change, as has been the case since the East Londoners’ first league win of the campaign over Everton in September. Pellegrini will set them out in his favoured 4-3-3 system with a solid four at the back, a consistent three in midfield and a fearsome front three, it has worked best for him back in English football.
So, now that you’ve heard our predicted Hammers starting Xl to face the Terriers at the John Smith’s Stadium in under a day’s time, which sees West Ham unchanged from the Burnley victory, we want to hear your predicted starting Xl! Head over to our Twitter page @WestHamMatters_ to tell us and have your say on anything Irons-related.