Wednesday 2nd March – 19:45 – Upton Park
Tottenham Hotspur have the North London derby at the weekend, but Wednesday sees another rival within the city as Mauricio Pochettino’s side travel to West Ham United. Both teams have had excellent seasons so far, and could perhaps be said to have exceeded expectations. The hosts currently sit in sixth place with 43 points – their best ever tally at this stage of a Premier League campaign. Slaven Bilic’s side are unbeaten in 13 league and cup games at home, whilst have kept four clean sheets in their last six Upton Park fixtures. But if it’s a watertight defence you want, then look no further than second place Spurs, who have conceded the least goals in the top flight (21). They too are on excellent form having won their previous six games, and will go top with a win in East London. They have the best record in London derbies so far this season, earning 11 points from five games (W3, D2). West Ham have nine points from just four derby matches. So don’t rule out the Hammers, who in their final Upton Park derby with Spurs, could add another twist to this fascinating title race that Mauricio Pochettino’s side are in my opinion the favourites to win.
West Ham United
- Diafra Sakho could be involved for the first time since suffering a thigh injury in November.
- A place on the bench looks the most likely scenario, so Slaven Bilic may consider handing a recall to Andy Carroll in place of Emmanuel Emenike as the lone striker for the Hammers, after the Nigerian failed to make much of an impact against Sunderland.
- Sam Byram is suspended, while Winston Reid, Joey O’Brien (both hamstring), James Tomkins (calf) and Enner Valencia (ankle) are still injured.
- Dele Alli is a fitness doubt because of a foot problem.
- Tom Carroll has recovered from an Achilles injury, while Mousa Dembele might return from a groin strain in time to face Arsenal on Saturday.
- Clinton N’Jie and Jan Vertonghen are both long term absentees due to respective knee problems.
The Key Battle: Michail Antonio vs Danny Rose
All the fuss may be about Dimitri Payet at West Ham, but Michail Antonio is the main man in form for the Hammers, with four goals in his last five Premier League appearances at Upton Park, including the winning strike against Sunderland on Saturday.
The celebration may have been questionable, but the goal came from real quality from Antonio who has played a key part in such an impressive season since breaking into the side at the start of December. I’d like to say I always knew he’d become such a good player after watching him at Reading, but his performances at the Madjeski Stadium, never indicated what he is showing now!
Another scorer at the weekend was Danny Rose, who hit the winning goal as Tottenham came from behind to beat Swansea City 2-1. There’s a chance that Mauricio Pochettino may rotate his full-backs for this midweek clash, but you’d like to think that Rose has done enough to stay in the side.
The 25 year old has been fighting it out with Ben Davies for a place in the starting XI all season, and in the 15 league games Rose has played, Spurs have kept four clean sheets compared to the Welshman’s five clean sheets from 12 appearances.
West Ham United wins = 60 / Tottenham Hotspur wins = 91 / Draws = 51
*According to http://www.11v11.com
Last Meeting: Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 West Ham United (22nd November 2015)
Tottenham equalled a club record by going 12 Premier League games unbeaten after Harry Kane’s two goals helped them comfortably beat West Ham. Kane scored for the fifth club game in a row to put Spurs ahead before Toby Alderweireld headed in from a corner. The England striker fired in his second after the break before Kyle Walker added a fourth for the home side, who also struck the woodwork twice. Manuel Lanzini’s late goal was merely a consolation for the lacklustre Hammers. Read the full report here.
Slaven Bilic: “We want to play entertaining football for the people to enjoy, and that should improve because we are improving. It should also get us high up the table, where? I don’t know. We try and win every game, no matter who we play. There’s a long way to go this season. OK, for now, 43 points we are in a good position. The only focus is to finish as high as possible. We don’t have any other goal than that, no specific target. If you offered me a point before a match, I wouldn’t take it, I would never take it. Sometimes after a game you are over the moon with a point, but before, no thank you, because we have a good team and I believe in them.”
Mauricio Pochettino: “Our supporters know and the teams knows that it means a little bit more than only three points. The conditions will be difficult because the pitch is not so good, and the way we play, maybe it can affect us more than them. We need to be strong. If we want to achieve big things we need to go tomorrow and try to show that we are better, and the conditions are not important. We have players that are very strong, that have a very strong mentality and they are excited to play, not only in the derbies but every game.”
The Referee – Andre Marriner
- Last Premier League game: Sunderland 2-1 Manchester United (13th February 2016) – 5 yellow cards, 0 red cards
- Last West Ham United game: West Ham United 0-0 Stoke City (12th December 2015) – 3 yellow cards, 0 red cards
- Last Tottenham Hotspur game: Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Arsenal (23rd September 2015) – 4 yellow cards, 0 red cards
2015-16 Record: Games = 24 / Yellow cards = 80 / Red cards = 4 / Penalties = 9
Stat of the Match
Tottenham could win seven successive league matches for the first time in 49 years since March to May 1967.
Where Can I Watch It?
The game is not being broadcast live on UK television, but the highlights will be on BBC One’s Match of the Day on Wednesday at 10:45pm. Alternatively, you could listen to commentary live on BBC Radio London.
My Prediction: West Ham United 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Even though these two teams have solid defences, there’s also a lot of attacking quality in each side which makes me think we could have a high scoring game on our hands, but one that results in each team just getting a point each in a 2-2 draw. West Ham’s goals will come from Dimitri Payet and Andy Carroll, whilst Harry Kane will net a brace for Spurs. Either that, or the tight defences will indeed shine through and we’ll a 0-0 draw which should still be entertaining.