West Ham’s Trip To Newcastle A Glorious Chance For Three Much Needed Points

West Ham United are back in Premier League action on Saturday as Slaven Bilic’s men travel north to face Newcastle United at St James’ Park.The Hammers fans have rightly looked at this season with optimism after the expansive work the club have completed in the transfer window over the summer, but the campaign has not gone to plan thus far.

West Ham were routed by Manchester United 4-0 at Old Trafford on the opening day; while the defeat was disappointing, the manner of the performance left the travelling support feeling distinctly flat. The London club were desperately unlucky to lose at Southampton last weekend, with a last-gasp Charlie Austin penalty confirming a 3-2 defeat. Despite this, the nature of West Ham’s fight back from two goals and a man down to get the game back to 2-2 was reassuring, while Javier Hernandez got off the mark with a brace for the Irons.

The Hammers had short odds at sunbets.co.uk to dispatch League Two outfit Cheltenham Town in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night and duly did so, with a 2-0 win at least restoring some of the feel-good factor. A number of performances in the midweek win stood out, with James Collins mercurial at the back for the visiting side. The Welsh veteran is a clear favourite among the West Ham faithful for his commitment to the cause and no-nonsense approach, with many questioning why he has not been involved in the Premier League as yet this season. However, after Collins’ man of the match performance against Cheltenham and with Winston Reid out injured, Ginger Pele could well be in line for a start against Newcastle in Jose Fonte’s place.

West Ham fans will also be glad to see Diafra Sakho get a run out against the Football League side, with the Senegalese forward scoring in the cup victory. The African hitman has shown that he can be a devastating weapon for the Irons and while he may have to play second fiddle to Hernandez this term, having him fit and available is a real boost after last season’s injury woes.

West Ham travel to Tyneside at an ideal time to face Newcastle, who have looked fragile since their return to the Premier League. A 2-0 opening day defeat to Tottenham Hotspur highlighted Rafa Benitez’s limited options in the final third, with the Geordies devoid of any menace in attack. The goalless run continued in a 1-0 loss to Huddersfield Town last weekend, while Newcastle were also eliminated from the Carabao Cup at the hands of a second-string Nottingham Forest side on Wednesday night - losing 3-2 in extra time.

Both teams are desperate for three points at St James’ Park, but with belief and morale seemingly in low supply within Benitez’s squad, West Ham must go for the jugular.Along with Reid, the Hammers look set to have a number of other absentees. Marko Arnautovic will have to watch on from the sidelines after his stupid red card last weekend at Southampton, while it remains to be seen if Cheikhou Kouyate or Manuel Lanzini will be fit enough to play a part in the north east.

Former Newcastle striker Andy Carroll will not face his former club as the England international striker continues to rehabilitate and look to return to fitness. One man that will surely start is Michail Antonio, who put in an impressive performance at the St Mary’s Stadium last weekend, reiterating his importance to the team. The sprightly attacker’s versatility is clearly an asset for West Ham, but having the former Forest winger on the pitch also adds incision and a cutting edge for Bilic’s side. Elsewhere, the Hammers boss has a decision to make at centre-half, while Declan Rice was given the nod to play at Southampton and should continue after a relatively positive start to life in the Premier League.

Newcastle have a number of concerns themselves, with Jonjo Shelvey suspended after his red card in the defeat to Tottenham. Defenders Florian Lejeune, DeAndre Yedlin and Paul Dummett will all miss the game against the Hammers due to injury and as such Hernandez will hope to fill his boots against a makeshift Magpies rearguard.

With the international break coming up, having a two-week break and time to reflect on three consecutive away defeats to start 2017-18 would be a nightmare scenario for West Ham and the supporters. While the United loss can be put down to an opponent in devastating form and the Southampton one a lack of luck, losing to Newcastle this weekend would be a hard pill to swallow.

There is still every reason to believe that West Ham can fight for a place among the top eight this season and potentially push towards European qualification, but the campaign needs a shot in the arm, and three points, at St James’ Park on Saturday. - Ed Jnr

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