Newcastle travel to Upton Park today in an intriguing encounter which could have a big say in this year’s relegation dog-fight. A win for West Ham would mean they are mathematically safe, while Newcastle are only 5 points ahead of Wigan having played a game more, and will be desperate for the points.
It is also intriguing for the number of sub-plots underpinning today’s game. Big Sam returns to the club that sacked him, a fact that clearly still rankles with the big man. Likewise Alan Pardew returns to his old club where he has many fond memories, but also where it all went horribly wrong. Add to all that both Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll returning home, and you have a match that is not to be missed.
After Newcastle’s 6-0 drubbing by Liverpool last week, the Magpies are in serious trouble and their confidence is going to be shot. Pardew is sure to change the team around a bit, and Fabricio Coloccini may return to the centre of defence after injury. West Ham have no further injury problems with only James Tomkins and George McCartney on the treatment table.
Andy Carroll should have a large physical presence in the game today, and I fancy him to continue his good scoring run, although he is sure to have mixed feelings returning to his boyhood club. I thought that Big Sam would change the midfield around a bit last week, either bringing in Mark Noble or Joe Cole, but he persisted with the Vaz Te and Mo Diame combination. I can see Vaz Te dropping to the bench this week with Joe Cole starting, but Diame may continue in the middle if Sam doesn’t want to change things around. The defence is picking itself with Tomkins out, and the same can be said up front.
I can’t see any other result today other than a West Ham win with form so good at home. I reckon Jussi Jaaskelainen will provide another clean sheet today too, so I’ll plump for a 2-0 win with Carroll and Collins getting the goals.
If the Hammers do get the win, the club should announce a new contract for Mr Allardyce shortly after, and it is a contract much deserved after achieving the target of Premiership survival in a relatively comfortable manner. It should be an interesting summer too, with the necessity to improve from here and plenty of activity due in the transfer market.