West Ham United will look to boost their credentials for a top-four berth when they take on a struggling Southampton side on Boxing Day.

West Ham United could give their fans reason to cheer this festive season if they secure a home win against a struggling Southampton side on Boxing Day. A win on the night will take the Hammers to within one point of fourth-placed Arsenal.

David Moyes’s side have continued from where they left off last season. A concentrated effort at a top-four finish is possible should the Hammers back up the optimism on the pitch. Despite the recent Carabao Cup loss to Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham were impressive on the night and had reasons to be optimistic about going into the game.

Southampton, meanwhile, have not enjoyed a good campaign and have been limited to a mere three wins all season. The Saints are currently six points off the 18th spot but have played more games than Burnley and Watford. A loss on the night coupled with results elsewhere going against could see Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side get dragged into the relegation dogfight.

Both teams have had reversals in their last five games. West Ham have won just one match during that time while Southampton are winless in the same duration. West Ham’s lone win came against Chelsea, showing once again that Moyes’s side can beat the best when on their game.

It promises to be an intriguing match that could impact where either side could end up in the Premier League table come the new year. The Hard Tackle looks at how both sides could fare on the night and what tactics might be employed.

Team News & Tactics

West Ham United

With several players missing due to injury or otherwise, Moyes has decisions to make regarding his lineup for the game. Kurt Zouma and Angelo Ogbonna both miss out due to injury, while Michail Antonio and Aaron Cresswell are a doubt for the game.

Antonio has been the club’s top scorer and their first choice up front. However, he missed the midweek game after testing positive for coronavirus, and it remains to be seen if he will be cleared to face Southampton. Even if he fails to make it, it could give Moyes a chance to test out other alternatives and figure out a way to lessen his side’s overdependence in attack on the Jamaican international.

While Antonio could still make the squad for the game, he is unlikely to start the game. Moyes is also strengthened by the return of Vladimir Coufal from suspension. In Cresswell’s absence, the Czech ace looks set to start at right-back, with Ben Johnson deputising on the other flank.

Lukasz Fabianski will start in goal and will have Issa Diop and Craig Dawson start ahead of him in defence. Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek will form the double pivot that Moyes will hope hands his side the advantage in midfield. This could provide the trio of Said Benrahma, Manuel Lanzini and Jarrod Bowen the impetus to support Andriy Yarmolenko upfront.

The presence of Pablo Fornals offers Moyes an alternative to bring off the bench if needed. It will not come as a surprise should the Scottish tactician choose to start with the Spaniard instead of Benrahma.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Fabianski; Coufal, Dawson, Diop, Johnson; Soucek, Rice; Bowen, Lanzini, Benrahma; Yarmolenko

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Southampton

Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side is going through a rough patch of form at the moment. Injuries have not made the Austrian manager’s job easier either.

Southampton have had injuries among their goalkeepers and have Alex McCarthy out with a thigh injury. Fraser Forster could, however, return to the squad after recovering from a groin issue. The Englishman looks likely to make the bench with Willy Caballero donning the gloves for the night.  Meanwhile, Stuart Armstrong and Adam Armstrong could both return, but Che Adams continues to struggle with a thigh problem.

The Saints look set to start in a 4-4-2 formation with Kyle Walker-Peters, Jan Bednarek, Mohammed Salisu and Valentino Livramento forming the rearguard. Oriol Romeu and James Ward-Prowse are likely to start in midfield and will be tasked with nullifying Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek.

Nathan Redmond and Mohamed Elyounoussi look set to start on the flanks, with Nathan Tella and Armando Broja starting upfront. Starting Tella allows Hasenhuttl to shift his formation to a five-person midfield if needed.

This can help him nullify the extra man advantage West Ham have in midfield. Southampton fared decently against Crystal Palace but will need to do better than that against an organised West Ham side. Three points would be massive for the Saints going forward.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Caballero; Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Salisu,Livramento; Redmond, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Elyounoussi; Tella, Broja

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Key Stats

  • West Ham United have not lost to Southampton in their last seven meetings in the Premier League.
  • None of Southampton’s previous 18 visits to West Ham have ended in a draw.
  • West Ham United have won more games (19) and more home games (4) against Southampton than any other side in the English top flight.
  • West Ham United have won just one of their last seven games on Boxing Day.
  • Southampton have conceded at least two goals in 12 of their last 14 away matches.
  • West Ham United have kept a clean sheet in five of their last six games against Southampton in all competitions.
  • Southampton have failed to win 13 of their last 14 away matches.

Player to Watch

Jarrod Bowen

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The English winger has been a sensational signing for West Ham and has taken to life in the top flight like a fish to water. He has scored five goals and provided five assists this season and has regularly been a threat down the right flank.

His directness and trickery are difficult to defend against and his movement makes him a handful to go up against. With Michail Antonio unlikely to start, Bowen could prove to be the biggest threat to the Southampton defence on the night. Kyle Walker-Peters is likely to have his hands full, limiting his ability to get up front. Doing so would see him leave gaps behind him that Bowen can run into and cause havoc.

Prediction

West Ham United 2-1 Southampton

West Ham go into the game not only in better form but also with better players. David Moyes’s side might have won just one of their last five Premier League games but can turn on the style. Playing at home in front of a cheering crowd will give them more impetus to do so.

The Hammers’ double pivot of Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek could have a big role to play on the day. The duo could help the home side gain control of the midfield and nullify James Ward-Prowse. That can help cut off service to the attack and make the Hammers’ defence’s life easier. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for West Ham.

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