West Ham United v Hull City, Sat 20 Feb 2010

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West Ham will be without striker Benni McCarthy for the visit of Hull.

The South African star, who signed for the Hammers on the last day of the January transfer window, has been out with a knee problem since West Ham's 2-1 defeat at Burnley on February 10.

Herita Ilunga (thigh) will remain sidelined for at least three more weeks while Danny Gabbidon and Kieron Dyer (both hamstring) are not ready to return.

West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola has been boosted by the return of Guillermo Franco from a muscle complaint which has kept him out for the last two months.

Zola insists there is a better atmosphere around the club since his public dispute with the Hammers' new owners.

Zola was furious a fortnight ago when he said that he would not be undermined following co-owner David Sullivan's criticism of the club's wage structure.

But they responded with a 2-0 home win over Birmingham in their last outing and the Italian now says the matter has been firmly put to bed.

"It's an old story which has been discussed too much," Zola said.

"There is a better atmosphere because there isn't so much talking or speculation now. That has helped the situation."

Zola now accepts that the takeover of the club in January by former Birmingham co-owners Sullivan and David Gold has improved West Ham's chances of Premier League survival.

"They want to improve the situation financially and also as a team," he explained.

"We have not suffered any problems because they are looking after us. Nothing has changed. The new board came in and brought in three players to help us.

"The club are trying to make the situation better, that is important and we do not have a problem with that. I told the chairmen they can do what is necessary for the good of the club."

Hull manager Phil Brown may call on midfielder Jimmy Bullard for only the sixth time since his #5million move from Fulham.

The 31-year-old has returned to training after his latest knee injury, which saw him leave the field in tears at Aston Villa in December, and could be on the bench.

Brown will definitely be without another midfielder in Geovanni, who is still out with a knee problem, but George Boateng is available after his red card against Blackburn was rescinded.

Brown has told his players to use the memories of some of their Premier League highlights from last season as they look to end their away hoodoo.

The Tigers have yet to win on their travels this campaign and consequently find themselves only a point above the bottom three.

The Hammers are also on 24 points and victory at Upton Park would give Brown's side a valuable cushion as they look to avoid relegation for a second consecutive year.

He said: "With six (away) games to go we have to draw on what we actually picked up last year - a 2-1 win at the Emirates, a 1-0 win at White Hart Lane, a 2-1 win at Newcastle. Those are reference points to winning at this level.

"Everybody said our home form was the reason why we only just survived, this year it's the away form and we have to make sure the last six games we change that thought process."

Hull have only picked up four points from their 13 away games this season and may be facing West Ham at the wrong time, with Zola's side coming off the back of a 2-0 victory against high-flying Birmingham.

Brown continued: "They'll be buoyed by the fact they've just had a tremendous win and he plays good football, Gianfranco.

"He's stuck by his principles and we know it's going to be a good game of football and it's up to us to make sure we join in.

"It's a mouthwatering game, as are the next 12. A lot of people will be looking at the away form and suggesting we're not going to get any points away from home but they're all opportunities to get something."

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Premier League
West Ham United
Hull City

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