The battle of the two claret and blue sides takes place at Upton Park on Saturday afternoon as two teams who could do with three points will aim to claim victory. Sam Allardyce and his West Ham side welcome Paul Lambert and his Aston Villa side to London in a repeat of the opening game of last season, when West Ham emerged victorious courtesy of a disputed Kevin Nolan goal.
Lambert’s Aston Villa team is without a win in three games but it is has not been through lack of trying as they had a handful of chances against Everton and could have been out of sight before half time, with Christian Benteke missing both a penalty and a one on one. Therefore, taking chances when they come on Saturday will be of vital importance.
The Hammers will be looking to get the better of a side at home for the first time since the opening day victory against Cardiff City. They have since gone on to lose their last three matches at home in the Premier League. The home faithful could get restless if the Irons fall behind early on so the first goal in this match could be a crucial one.
Paul Lambert looked relaxed in his press conference earlier in the week, taking time out to speak about non-Villa related matters as he appeared to be unfazed by the recent form of his side, stating that he is not concerned due to the fact that we are creating a number of chances per game and that it’s when we aren’t creating at all that he will start to worry. He appears to be a man in control and is adamant that with the fans’ support then the good times will slowly return to Villa Park.
Aston Villa forward Gabriel Agbonlahor is unlikely to recover in time for the game from the ankle injury he suffered during last weekend’s defeat by Everton. Left-backs Antonio Luna (hamstring) and Joe Bennett (back) are both sidelined, which could mean a return to the side for Matthew Lowton at full back. However, I fully expect Nathan Baker to move along the defence to left back and Ciaran Clark to retain his place at the back.
With Gabriel Agbonlahor out, there could be a return to the 4-3-3 formation so commonly used by Paul Lambert but with Aleksandar Tonev playing as part of an attacking three and Yacouba Sylla or Karim El Ahmadi partnering Fabian Delph and Ashley Westwood in the middle. There is always the opportunity for Libor Kozak to partner Christian Benteke up front with Andreas Weimann and Aleksandar Tonev providing the ammunition from the sideline. Lambert favours the 4-3-3/4-5-1 formation so I fully expect the players to line up that way tomorrow.
West Ham’s injury problems have worsened, with Matthew Taylor and Mladen Petric the latest casualties this week. Mladen Petric is out for a couple of weeks after aggravating an injury in an U21 run-out and fellow striker Ricardo Vaz Te is absent after dislocating a shoulder against Swansea on Sunday.
These latest injury concerns take their places on the treatment table alongside long-term absentee Andy Carroll, who is yet to repay any of the substantial fee that West Ham paid when they signed him in the summer.
The re-signed Carlton Cole is not yet ready for a Premier League start, according to manager Sam Allardyce, although he made a substitute appearance in the 0-0 draw away at Swansea last time out.
Kick off: 3:00pm
Venue: Upton Park
Tickets: The away allocation is sold out!
Referee: Howard Webb
Previous meeting: West Ham 1-0 Aston Villa
West Ham 1-2 Aston Villa – @MrOMeara
West Ham 1-1 Aston Villa – Mark Lawrenson
West Ham 0-2 Aston Villa – Paul Merson