West Ham kept an impressive clean sheet against Everton, West Ham are set to face off against a troubled Stoke City side. A victory would see West Ham pass the potters in the table. Stoke collapsed against Swansea, flailing to a disappointing 2-0 defeat.
With the year winding down, West Ham probably need another win to ensure survival. While it's unlikely the Iron’s will be caught, it is still possible. Until that danger is totally dealt with, Bilic will not have the opportunity to experiment with lineups and tactics. The sooner these fears are assuaged the better, as putting any lingering relegation doubts to bed allows for the staff to begin planning for next season.
It’s been a chaotic couple of days for West Ham after the shocking raid by HMRC officers on London Stadium. Only time will tell how the side deal with this distraction, or whether these events will have any on field impacts. In the meantime, focus must shift to the next match.
Stoke have flattered to deceive this season, struggling defensively and failing to put together any consistent runs of results. Long term injuries to crucial players, transfer failings, and uncertainty over the future of Mark hughes have all contributed to a frustrating season.
Jack Butland returned last match after a nightmare injury spell. He should continue in goal. In front of him, Erik Pieters will continue at left back, despite horrific form this season. Ryan Shawcross and Bruno Martins-Indi have been two brighter spots in the center of the defense. On the right, former Hammer Glenn Johnson will continue.
Geoff Cameron has been filling in for the aging Glenn Whelan at the Defensive Mid position, will sometimes also playing in a back three. The US International will probably start. Joe Allen has been one of the sole impressive players this year, and will surely keep his spot.
Up front, Saido Berahino will be flanked by the out of form duo of Shaqiri and Arnautovic. All three are players performing well below their potential.
Andy Carroll will again miss out, and while this is unsurprising, the development will be disappointing to fans. The lanky English striker has been by far the best striker in the side this season.
In his place, Diafra Sakho and Jonathan Calleri will square off for the start. Calleri started and struggled against Everton, but Sakho seems to be in poor standing with the club’s management. As it stands, Sakho is the preferred option, but Calleri is the more likely one.
Formation will play a key role in the lineup behind Carroll. Depending on the number of attacking midfielders, any combination Ayew, Lanzini and the returning Snodgrass and Feghouli could start.
Again, a lot depends on formation. Edimilson Fernandes was solid last match as a wide player. It’s possible that he will move into the middle. Also in contention is captain Mark Noble, who returns from suspension.
It would, however, be harsh to break up the partnership of Kouyate and Nordtveit. The two seem comfortable together, and the pair’s strengths complement one another nicely. If Bilic sticks with the 5-2-3/3-4-3 formation he played against Everton, Kouyate and Nordtveit deserve to stick together.
After keeping a clean sheet, Adrian should keep the starting spot, even if he almost made a terrible error by gifting Lukaku a chance. Fonte, Collins and Reid will also probably stay together as a back three. After keeping Lukaku quiet, this match should feel like a walk in the park.
In the wide defensive spots, be they wingbacks or fullbacks, Bilic has a pair of hard choices to make. Sam Byram and Aaron cresswell are both fit and eligible again. While Byram deserves to start, Cresswell has been poor this whole season. It would be extremely harsh to bench Masuaku after a perfectly decent performance.
Stoke City 0-3 West Ham
Stoke are struggling, and West ham have to take their chance. Opportunities for points will be scarce in the final matches, and this victory would totally alleviate fans concerns of a relegation battle. If the side can stay focused and execute the gameplan, the result should be theirs.