Cheikhou Kouyate has signed a lucrative new West Ham contract

By Matt Farr

Slaven Bilic is expected to makes at least two changes to his West Ham side for their trip to Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday.

Cheikou Kouyate and Robert Snodgrass are both expected to come into the side in place of Pedro Obiang and Sofiane Feghouli, following the wretched 4-0 defeat to Manchester City on Wednesday.

Despite the defensive horror-show earlier in the week, Bilic is unlikely to tamper with his back-four, due to a lack of suitable options.

Therefore, Aaron Cresswell, Jose Fonte, Winston Reid and Sam Byram are likely to be among the nine players that retain their places.

Darren Randolph, Mark Noble, Michail Antonio, Manuel Lanzini and Andy Carroll are also expected to stay put.

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Randolph has been one of West Ham’s most important players this season, having come to the rescue on several occasions. It was not the Republic of Ireland stopper that was to blame for the defeat on Wednesday, so there will be no need for deputy Adrian to come off the bench.

Byram remains a 50/50 inclusion at this point following a minor hamstring scare, but he will be assessed before kick-off.

The main defensive change, meanwhile will see Kouyate come back into the side following his international commitments at the African Cup of Nations.

The 27-year-old has been greatly missed by Slaven Bilic’s side, and would bring back the kind of physicality that eluded the Hammers during their Man City defeat.

He is expected to replace the mistake-ridden Obiang, who was poor midweek.

Argentine playmaker Lanzini is likely to resort to his more familiar central role, after cutting an isolated figure on the left-hand side last time out.

He was largely ineffective and Bilic should make amends by deploying Snodgrass and Antonio as his two wide players instead.

The change should also bring the best out of striker Andy Carroll, who has netted three goals from his three appearances.

Ghana international Andre Ayew is not likely to feature so soon after returning from African Cup of Nations duties.

Bilic will still be without a host of important players through injury, with Havard Nordtveit, Diafra Sakho, Alvaro Arbeloa and Artur Masuaku among those still sidelined.

A win for West Ham would send them as high as ninth in the Premier League.

A defeat, on the other hand, could see them drop as low as 14th, and pile even more pressure on manager Slaven Bilic.

In other West Ham team news, much-maligned summer signing Jonathan Calleri has revealed the key to his turnaround in form.

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