West Ham’s romance with the FA Cup could come to an end on Valentine’s Day with Sam Allardyce’s injury-struck outfit facing a tough visit to the Hawthorns.
The Hammers boss fears his side’s efforts with effectively nine men in Wednesday’s 0-0 draw with Southampton could take its toll when they face West Brom for the fifth-round clash.
Andy Carroll picked up an injury that could keep him out for up to six weeks while goalkeeper Adrian is facing a suspension following his sending off at St Mary’s.
Jussi Jaaskelainen is likely to fill the void in goal after an impressive display coming off the bench, although Allardyce has confirmed West Ham intend to appeal the ban.
These casualties add to the growing list at Upton Park, with Cheikhou Kouyate also limping off in the last match and Kevin Nolan (foot), Mark Noble (illness), James Collins and Winston Reid (both hamstring) all doubts.
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Allardyce is wary his fatigued side could come unstuck in the midlands and he hopes to have at least Noble and Nolan back for the tie. Academy duo Reece Burke and Elliot Lee could make the bench.
Jonas Olsson (Achilles) and Victor Anichebe (groin) are Tony Pulis’ only injury worries as the home side looks to build momentum following an impressive 2-0 win over Swansea City in midweek.
MUST GO FOR IT
West Ham won 2-0 the last time the two teams met in the FA Cup back in 1993 but the Baggies have only lost once in five matches under Pulis and will be very tough to beat.
The Hammers only option is to go for it, this is the best chance for them to go far in the cup for a long time and it would be a shame to see Allardyce set-up cautiously.
If Noble and Nolan return they could once again play in the 4-1-2-1-2 diamond which has been so effective for them this season. With the quality in the squad, despite the injuries, you’d expect the Hammers to win should they go toe-to-toe with West Brom, although Carroll’s aerial presence will be missed.
Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia were deployed as wingers against Southampton and couldn’t make an impact in the match, which resulted in them both being hauled off.
It’s baffling why Allardyce even attempted to play his two best front men out wide to accommodate Carlton Cole but in a must-win cup tie it’s hard to see him making the same mistake.
In the diamond system they work brilliantly leading the line, absolutely terrorising defences – like we saw recently against Manchester United – with their pace and tenacity.
With Stewart Downing in behind, too, the Hammers should have too much for West Brom but it all depends on how Allardyce decides to set the team up.
WEST HAM: PREDICTED XI
Jaaskelainen, Jenkinson, Tomkins, Kouyate, Cresswell; Noble, Song, Nolan, Downing; Sakho, Valencia.
West Brom 0-1 West Ham