Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United return to Premier League action this lunchtime, when Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United are the visitors to London Stadium. Ahead of kick-off, we attempt to predict what the Hammers starting Xl will look like as they aim to go four matches unbeaten.
GK: Lukasz Fabianski
Despite the clean sheet of cup goalkeeper Adrian San-Miguel in Wednesday night’s incredible 8-0 thrashing of Macclesfield Town, it would be a major shock if Lukasz Fabianski wasn’t in the starting Xl. He has been the pick of the new signings, especially after his first clean sheet, during last Sunday’s impressive 0-0 draw with Chelsea.
RB: Pablo Zabaleta
One man, who isn’t perhaps as nailed on but still has a very strong chance of starting is the veteran right-back Pablo Zabaleta, Ryan Fredericks may be pushing him after a goal and an assist in midweek, perhaps not for this weekend, however.
CB: Fabian Balbuena
In the eyes of most members of the Claret & Blue Army, the club have now found their new long-term centre-back partnership, and Fabian Balbuena is one part of that, impressive displays in recent weeks have all but cemented his place in the starting Xl, forevermore.
CB: Issa Diop
Very much the same can be said for his new partner and fellow summer signing Diop, he, unlike Balbuena, wasn’t rested and had to play the full 90 minutes against the Silkmen, not that he had much to do. He will still be fresh and raring to go.
LB: Arthur Masuaku
Much like the situation on the opposite side of the defence, there is strong competition for his place for Arthur Masuaku and it comes from ex-England man and usual left-back Aaron Cresswell, despite his impressive display three days ago, it would be hard to see Masuaku losing his starting berth.
RCDM: Mark Noble (C)
He may now be entering the twilight years of his career, but when fit and especially, after six days of rest following a good point against London rivals the Blues, club captain Mark Noble is still one of the first names on the teamsheet, operating within a midfield three.
CDM: Declan Rice
The middle prong of that three will undoubtedly be Academy of Football product Declan Rice, he was meant to be rested on Wednesday, but had to play a large cameo, replacing the injured Carlos Sanchez early on, this would be his third start in succession, the 19-year-old.
LCDM: Pedro Obiang
The final and left-sided element of the midfield will be Spaniard Pedro Obiang, who, aided by the injury suffered by Jack Wilshere, has also enjoyed a run in the team. He has broken back in, having been left out at the start of the Pellegrini era, and it’s a run that doesn’t look like it will be ending any time soon.
RF: Andriy Yarmolenko
The newly-established front three were all not in action on Wednesday, meaning Andriy Yarmolenko will be fit and fresh to face the Red Devils in the right-forward position. The Ukraine star will be very keen to make up for last Sunday, when he missed a golden opportunity to gift his side three points inside the final 15 minutes.
ST: Marko Arnautovic
This is the big one for the home team, the return of the main man Marko Arnautovic from the injury he sustained nearly two weeks ago, which forced him off in the away victory over Everton at Goodison Park. He was dearly missed against the West Londoners and is a shoe-in to take the place of Michail Antonio in Pellegrini’s starting Xl, bad news for United fans.
LF: Felipe Anderson
To the left of Arnautovic will be club-record signing Felipe Anderson, his form having gradually improved since the start of the campaign, but he is yet to register a goal or more than one assist. Robert Snodgrass managing two of each on Wednesday will give him something to think about, probably not for this game, though.
Ever since switching his formation to the 4-3-3 for the aforementioned Toffees triumph, Pellegrini hasn’t looked back and here we are, three matches unbeaten in all competitions. It looks like he has finally found the right system and unless something starts to go disastrously wrong, we are unlikely to see him deviate from this.
So, now that you have heard how we think Pellegrini will set out his starting Xl for the key visit of the Red Devils to East London later today, making the one change from the Chelsea draw, Arnautovic in for Antonio, do you agree with us? Or, do you think that the gaffer will go with something different? Head over to our Twitter page (@WestHamMatters_), to let us know your pre-match thoughts.