West Ham-Manchester United Preview: Can The Hammers Make It Nine In a Row?
This past Saturday, West Ham United stretched their unbeaten run to eight matches in all competitions with a 0-0 draw against Arsenal at the Emirates. The Hammers were out-shot 22-2 by Arsenal, but managed to hold the Gunners to just three shots on goal. New signing Savio saw action as a substitute for the second time, coming on for Mark Noble in the 71st minute.
On Sunday, West Ham will try to extend that run to nine games, but will have a very difficult task as Manchester United visits Upton Park. Man Utd. is on a 12-match unbeaten streak of their own, which is even more impressive when you factor in that they have held all 12 opponents scoreless over that period. The Red Devils have not allowed a goal since the 48th minute of their Nov. 8 match against Arsenal, a span of 1,104 minutes.
Manchester United currently sits atop the league table with 53 points, two points clear of Liverpool, who defeated third-place Chelsea this past Sunday. Playing at home will give West Ham an advantage they were missing against Arsenal, but one would think that they will implement a similar strategy against Man. Utd.
The Hammers will most likely be happy to sit nine or ten men behind the ball for the majority of the game, counter-attacking whenever they get the opportunity. This may prove difficult, however, as West Ham will be hard pressed to shut down the front two of Dimitar Berbatov and former Hammer Carlos Tevez, especially as they're being fed by Cristiano Ronaldo from the right.
Manager Gianfranco Zola seems to have found his starting 11, using the same group for the past three matches since the departure of Craig Bellamy. Robert Green will of course be in goal, with Matthew Upson, James Collins, Lucas Neill and Herita Ilunga protecting him at the back. Midfield will likely be manned by Jack Collison, Scott Parker, Mark Noble and Valon Behrami, with David Di Michele and Carlton Cole upfront.
Cole is one player in particular to keep an eye on Sunday, as he may have received an international call-up by England manager Fabio Capello the day before. If this is the case, I would expect Cole to try even harder to put one in the back of the net and break the scoreless streak.
West Ham always seem to get up for this fixture. In the same one last season, the Hammers were aided by a Ronaldo penalty miss, and then scored two late goals on headers by defenders Matthew Upson and Anton Ferdinand to nip United 2-1.
As a Hammers fan, I hope to see them break the scoreless streak and come up with the three points, but unfortunately, there is a reason that no one has scored on Man Utd. in the past 18-plus hours. I see the best possible outcome for the Hammers as a second straight 0-0 draw.
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