West Ham will look to bounce back from their 1-0 defeat against current champions Manchester City, albeit from a dubious penalty decision given against Felipe Anderson, by playing host to the in-form Newcastle United who are unbeaten in their last three matches.
The Hammers’ sturdy defensive performance perhaps was not accredited with such rewards that it deserved, especially with notable key absences from the starting XI. With usual suspects, Fabian Balbuena, Jack Wilshire, Andriy Yarmolenko and Winston Reid out on the sidelines, the Hammers faced further issues in all areas of the pitch, whether this be from injury or through Manuel Pellegrini’s tactics.
Pellegrini seemed to have his attention drawn towards the later of West Ham’s fixtures, seeing midfield duo Mark Noble and Robert Snodgrass, as well as Chicharito drop to the bench for a well-earned rest. Further issues up top saw Lucas Perez dropped from the squad due to behavioural problems, and frontman Marko Arnautovic developed illness last-minute, allowing the big man Andy Carroll to get the nod to start.
A further crisis at full back saw Aaron Cresswell break his toe against Fulham, while a knock meant that Arthur Masuaku dropped from the squad, making way for academy graduate Ben Johnson, who made his first start for the club, at just 19 years of age.
Pellegrini will be pleased to see the return of Balbuena in training, meaning he will be available for selection, as well as key players who were rested for the match at City, however, question marks will be cast upon Arnautovic’s return to the starting XI as he still battles illness.
Here is the XI I believe Pellegrini will select for the game:
GK - Lukasz Fabianski
The Polish shot-stopper has proved an incredible bargain at just £8 million, and his name will be at no surprise on the team sheet.
RB - Ryan Fredericks
Fredericks looks to continue his fantastic form following notable performances in his last four games. His pace is a valuable asset, as he proved at both City and Fulham.
CB - Issa Diop
Diop holds his place after an impressive performance yet again against City. The youngster looks to have a busy Saturday ahead of him, trying to keep the likes of Salomon Rondon and Miguel Almiron at bay.
CB - Fabian Balbuena
Balbuena looks set to slot straight back into the side following his return from injury. He compliments Diop more as a centre back pairing more than Ogbonna did, proving one of the Hammers’ unsung heroes this campaign. His physical presence will also be necessary against Rondon.
LB - Ben Johnson
With notable absences to both Aaron Cresswell and Arthur Masuaku, this is a toss-up between Johnson or Pablo Zabaleta, the man who replaced Johnson on his debut. The youngster should get the nod after his performance did enough to see Riyad Mahrez subbed off in the 55th minute, however, a calf niggle could see Zabaleta get the nod.
CM - Declan Rice
The Englishman (yes, English) has proved a fantastic talent at such a young age, and his ball-winning skills are the best in the West Ham squad. Rice will sit nicely in a midfield three, protecting the back four.
CM - Mark Noble
The skipper will return to the side following his rest against City, slotting back into his midfield partnership with Rice, while offering a slightly more advanced role than his compatriot.
CAM - Robert Snodgrass
A tricky position to predict, with both Samir Nasri and Manuel Lanzini available for selection. However, Snodgrass’ rest against City hints at him getting the nod over Nasri, who started against City and may be tired, and Lanzini, who has only managed two substitute appearances since his knee injury and may struggle for match fitness.
RW - Michail Antonio
Antonio has been key to the Hammers’ attacking force in recent weeks, offering three goal contributions in his last four games. Although playing a full 90 minutes against City, he should get the nod over Grady Diangana.
LW - Felipe Anderson
The Brazilian’s form has been up and down for the Hammers since his record signing, and unfortunately for the Hammers, he is in a lull. Anderson has failed to score or assist in seven of his last eight, a record that Anderson looks to set to put right on Saturday.
ST - Javier Hernandez
Hernandez looks to start following his rest against City, and with the uncertainty surrounding West Ham’s other viable attacking options.
Arnautovic hasn’t been the same since the transfer speculation and his illness on Wednesday. Perez has attitude issues and was not included in the matchday squad against City, while Carroll was ineffective on Wednesday.