By Matt Farr
West Ham are set to be without Diafra Sakho for the upcoming EFL Cup clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
The 26-year-old striker suffered a hamstring injury in the 1-1 draw with United in the Premier League at the weekend, having put the Hammers ahead after just 91 seconds.
The news comes a major blow to Slaven Bilic’s plans, with the side currently lacking the presence of a prolific goalscorer.
Sakho’s absence paves the way for at least one change to the Hammers side, with Bilic expected to make a total of five changes ahead of their next Premier League game against Arsenal.
While their quarter-final encounter with United will be considered an important fixture, the game against Arsenal may be considered the priority given West Ham’s recent form and current league position.
Defeat against the Gunners, and wins for some of their relegation rivals, could see West Ham drop into the relegation zone, which is why it is imperative that Bilic picks a fresh team.
They have won just three league games from a possible 13 this season, and face a tough-run in to Christmas, with a trip to high-flying Liverpool following the Arsenal clash.
Winston Reid, meanwhile, is expected to return to the side following his suspension. He will slot back into a three-man defence alongside James Collins and Angelo Ogbonna, meaning Cheikhou Kouyate could be rested.
Despite being named man-of-the-match against United last time out, goalkeeper Darren Randolph could also make way for Adrian.
Pedro Obiang has been one of West Ham’s most important players this season, but to keep him fresh he may drop to the bench in favour of a deeper role for Manuel Lanzini.
As their creative hub, Dimitri Payet simply cannot be left out, but attacking duo Sofiane Feghouli and Andre Ayew may return to the fray.
Ayew could replace the injured Sakho up front, but Ashley Fletcher may instead be given the go-ahead to face his old club.
The Hammers gave a good display against United at Old Trafford last time out, but they will need to be just as good, if not better if they want to progress to the next stages of the EFL Cup – regardless of what team Bilic puts out.
In the latest West Ham transfer news, Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic is at the top of the club’s transfer list this January.