West Ham face Crystal Palace at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday and new signing Nene could help them claim a league double over their London rivals for the first time since 1972-73.
The Hammers’ season came to life at Selhurst Park on the second match-day of the campaign, with them cruising to an emphatic 3-1 victory. Now, with only one win in their last nine, the Irons could do with a repeat performance.
Palace are a different prospect entirely with Alan Pardew at the helm, though, and they’re on course to set a new Premier League club record of five away games unbeaten.
Sam Allardyce stated earlier in the week that Brazilian striker Nene, who recently signed as a free agent, will make his debut in the absence of the injured Carlton Cole and Andy Carroll.
Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia are expected to start up top once again, but with the two summer signings being used to having a winter break they may now start feeling some fatigue, which is where Nene will be of use.
Morgan Amalfitano is still serving a suspension but apart from that West Ham have a pleasingly strong squad to choose from for the second instalment of their four consecutive derby days. Palace are boosted by the return to fitness of captain Mile Jedinak and James McArthur, though Fraizer Campbell, Marouane Chamakh and fellow striker Yaya Sanogo all miss out with hamstring injuries.
Allardyce’s men go into this game knowing that Chelsea and Arsenal are next on the fixture list, so doing the double over Palace is a must.
The Eagles have only won two of 15 visits to Upton Park in all competitions although one of those victories was a 1-0 last season, courtesy of Jedinak’s penalty. They’re unbeaten in their last six away league and cup matches (W4, D2) and are looking like a reinvigorated team capable of defeating anyone on their day.
West Ham’s season will be re-ignited should they win and everyone will be back on the European bandwagon, however lose and it could be curtains for their campaign.
Task in hand
While it is imperative that the Hammers go for the victory they must approach their task with caution as Palace have an abundance of pace and counter-attacking threat throughout their side.
Yannick Bolasie is the catalyst in causing devastation to opposition defences on the break with his blistering speed, skill and direct running. Aaron Cresswell and Carl Jenkinson will need to ensure they’re diligent of what’s behind them when they bomb forward, as Bolasie will be looking to expose the spaces.
If West Ham play to their potential, however, much like they did in their last outing against Tottenham, they could blow Palace away.
WEST HAM: PREDICTED XI
Adrian, Jenkinson, Tomkins, Reid, Cresswell; Noble, Song, Kouyate, Downing; Sakho, Valencia.
West Ham 2-1 Crystal Palace