West Ham expected 4-3-3 v Manchester City: Out-of-form attacker axed in five changes
By Matt Farr
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic is expected to make five changes to his side for their upcoming FA Cup third round clash with Manchester City on Friday.
The Hammers are set to welcome back Reece Oxford to the starting line-up following a lengthy injury spell, while Adrian, Ashley Fletcher, Mark Noble and Edimilson Fernandes are also expected to return.
Darren Randolph, Angelo Ogbonna, Michail Antonio, and the out-of-form Dimitri Payet are four of West Ham’s household names that are expected to be rested for the tie; while Cheikhou Kouyate also drops out due to his international commitments.
The Africa Cup of Nations tournament that takes place over the next month has left Bilic without first-team duo Kouyate and Andre Ayew, but Feghouli will still be available after failing to make Algeria’s squad.
Feghouli also had his suspension overturned, having controversially been sent-off by referee Mike Dean in the Hammers 2-0 defeat to Manchester United last time out.
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Darren Randolph has been in formidable form for West Ham this season, but the cup tie presents Slaven Bilic with an opportunity to give Spanish stopper Adrian a run out. The 30-year-old has made 13 appearances this season, but has not appeared since EFL Cup defeat to Manchester United on November 30.
First-team defensive duo Aaron Cresswell and Winston Reid are expected to retain their places in Bilic’s side to face City, in a bid to combat Pep Guardiola’s potential plans to reinstate Sergio Aguero to the starting line-up.
There could be a long-awaited return, meanwhile, for versatile youngster Reece Oxford. The 18-year-old has not featured since West Ham’s ill-fated Europa League qualifying campaign in August due to an ankle injury.
Bilic does not have too many options at his disposal in defence, as James Collins, Artur Masuaku, Sam Byram and Alvaro Arbeloa all remain injured. Therefore, the versatile Havard Nordtveit is likely to start at right-back.
Pedro Obiang played at right-back against Manchester United on Monday but is set to return to a more familiar midfield role given Cheikhou Kouyate’s absence.
Skipper and box-to-box midfielder Mark Noble is also expected to face Manchester City, having sat out of the United clash with a minor knock. His return to the starting XI will be a huge boost for the Hammers.
Edimilson Fernandes may also be rewarded with a rare start, with the 20-year-old having started just six of his 15 appearances this season.
Feghouli looks set to keep his place in the attack following the FA’s decision to overturn his red card, and he joins Manuel Lanzini in a creative attacking-midfield duo.
Argentine playmaker Lanzini has been a mainstay in Slaven Bilic’s first-team setup this season, and will be his main creative hub in the absence of Dimitri Payet and Michail Antonio – with the former looking increasingly disinterested in the Hammers cause in recent weeks.
England international striker Andy Carroll was dropped to the bench against Manchester United, but is likely to start in the same role as Bilic turns to youngster Ashley Fletcher to lead the attack.
Fletcher has yet to score for the Hammers in the Premier League this season, but scored against his former club when they took on United in the EFL Cup in November.
He will be keen to impress Bilic having made played just eight minutes in the first-team in the last six games.
In other West Ham news, the Hammers are eyeing a move for this Premier League defender.