Following an impressive home win last Saturday against Newcastle, West Ham will look to make it three wins out of their last four against Premier League strugglers Cardiff on Saturday afternoon.
First-half goals from Declan Rice and a Mark Noble penalty was sure enough to see off Newcastle, albeit it the Magpies did have some fantastic opportunities to stay in the game, potentially enough to tie it up.
If it was not for the fantastic, last-ditch defending from Issa Diop late into injury time in the first half, the Hammers could’ve seen a more contested second.
Another boost for the Hammers was the return of several notable key players, with the return of both left backs in Arthur Masuaku and Aaron Cresswell, although the latter was substituted midway through the second half with what seemed to be an injury.
Another surprise appearance was that of Manuel Lanzini, who made his first start for side a mere 10 months after his horrific knee injury. Further positivity on the injury front sees Fabian Balbuena return to action for the U21s, as he builds up his match fitness and is expected to be available for selection on Saturday.
The Hammers visit Cardiff in a crisis period for the Bluebirds, who have lost their last three and will be without club captain and centre-back Sol Bamba for the rest of the season.
The fixture is an important one for both clubs, for the home team, it’s a must-win in order to keep up with fellow Premier League strugglers Southampton.
Meanwhile, West Ham look to secure three points in their ambitions to secure a seventh-place finish, with fellow battlers Wolves and Watford facing tricky games away at Chelsea and City respectively.
Here is the starting XI I believe Manuel Pellegrini will select for the trip to Cardiff:
GK - Lukasz Fabianski
Impressive as always against Newcastle, the keeper starts yet again between the sticks.
RB - Ryan Fredericks
Fredericks is a man who seems to improve every time he plays since his return to the starting XI. He is expected to keep his place against Cardiff.
CB - Issa Diop
The French defender looks to be one of the bargains of the season at just £20 million, a steal from Toulouse. Diop was the more impressive of the centre back pairing against Newcastle, with a last-ditch tackle on Schar the evidence of the fantastic talent that West Ham have on their hands.
CB - Angelo Ogbonna
Ogbonna has been impressive since his return to the side following Balbuena’s injury and recently he has formed a good partnership with Diop. With Balbuena still gaining match fitness, expect Ogbonna to get the nod.
LB - Aaron Cresswell
Although coming off injured against Newcastle, reports are that it was nothing too serious, so Cresswell is expected to start. However, don’t be surprised if Masuaku does come into the starting XI.
CM - Declan Rice
Another Man of the Match performance for the young Englishman, Rice seems destined for his first England call-up next Wednesday, as well as destined for the starting XI on Saturday.
CM - Mark Noble
The skipper retains his place following an impressive performance against the Magpies, topping it off nicely with a trademark Noble penalty.
CAM - Manuel Lanzini
The Argentine was in sublime form following his first start in 10 months, linking beautifully between the holding two and the front three. Lanzini had an astonishing 95% pass accuracy on his return.
RW - Michail Antonio
What may be somewhat controversial, Antonio returns to the side following his rest against Newcastle. Antonio was the man in form for the Hammers before his absence on Saturday and will look to replace Robert Snodgrass, although following the Scot’s performance against Newcastle, there will be some competition for the right-hand side.
LW - Felipe Anderson
Anderson showed flashes of his brilliance against Newcastle, and although current form suggests he could be dropped, facing an out of form and weakened Cardiff side could be what he needs to get back on the scoresheet.
ST - Marko Arnautovic
Another spot up for grabs, Arnautovic should get the nod as his physicality will be more suited to Cardiff’s defence and he could cause them problems, albeit at Chicharito’s expense.