West Ham United will look to get their top-four aspirations back on track when they travel to Selhurst Park to take on Crystal Palace on New Year’s Day.
West Ham United endured a difficult end to 2021 as a series of reversals saw them cede ground in the top four race. David Moyes’ side ended 2021 with an impressive 4-1 win away to Watf0rd and will look to keep the run going on New Year’s Day.
They will be up against a Crystal Palace side that also ended their 2021 on a high, continuing their upward trend in the Premier League table. Patrick Vieira’s side have several players missing but will look to use home advantage to their benefit.
A win on the night will potentially elevate the Eagles to the eighth spot if other results go their way. They will, however, have had played more games. West Ham, on the other hand, could move to within a point of fourth-placed Arsenal should the Gunners lose to Manchester City.
The job will not be easy as Vieira has brought back the pride at Selhurst Park. Palace have lost at home just once all season and have also picked up seven points from their last three home games. With supporters egging them on, the stadium is nothing short of a fortress when in full voice.
Moyes’ side have, however, turned up the heat on several occasions this season and will be aware that nothing less than a win can keep their hopes of a top-four finish alive. It promises to be an intriguing contest between two teams keen to resume their upward trajectory in the new year.
The Hard Tackle looks at how both teams could line up on the night and what tactics they might employ.
Team News & Tactics
"We performed very well away from home at West Ham actually. But to date our home form has been very good, and we want to keep that going as long as we can."
Osian Roberts looks ahead to tomorrow's fixture 🗣#CPFC
— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) December 31, 2021
Palace will be without several players who are out injured or missing due to the coronavirus. Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise are set to miss out on the night, while James McArthur is also out of contention.
The Eagles could also be without central defender Joachim Andersen who was taken off after picking up a knock in the win over Norwich City. However, it is not all bad news, as Wilfried Zaha, Christian Benteke, and Luka Milivojevic are back in contention. It remains to be seen if Conor Gallagher could return to action.
Both players are key parts of the Palace jigsaw, and their return will hand the home side a welcome boost. Gallagher, in particular, will be keen to repeat his two-goal heroics against West Ham from earlier in the season. The Eagles should start with a 4-3-3 formation on the night.
With Guaita out, Jack Butland looks set to reprise his role in the goal, behind a back four of Tyrick Mitchell, Marc Guehi, James Tomkins and Joel Ward. Palace’s midfield was full of energy against Norwich and will be asked to do the same once again. Cheikhou Kouyate and Jeffrey Schlupp look set to keep their positions but Will Hughes could make way to Gallagher should he return.
The trio of Odsonne Edouard, Jordan Ayew and Jean-Philippe Mateta was scintillating against the Canaries, but one of them will need to be benched with Zaha back from suspension. It will come as no surprise if Mateta could be the one to pave the way for the Ivorian. Both Zaha and Ayew will be playing their last game for West Ham for the next two weeks as they will depart for the Africa Cup of Nations soon.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Butland; Mitchell, Guehi, Tomkins, Ward; Kouyate, Hughes, Schlupp; Zaha, Edouard, Ayew
West Ham United
The Hammers have injury concerns of their own and will be without Kurt Zouma, Angelo Ogbonna and Aaron Cresswell. The latter’s absence limits their attacking capabilities down the left-flank, meaning the brunt of the overlap on the wings could come from the right. Pablo Fornals was also not in the West Ham matchday squad against Watford. Whether he will make the cut this time around remains to be seen.
Arthur Masuaku struggled in his last start but could get the nod ahead of Ben Johnson after the latter, however, started last time around, as Moyes could seek to keep things fresh. He looks set to be joined by Issa Diop, Craig Dawson, Vladimir Coufal. The quartet forms a decent rearguard for goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, who will need them to keep a compact line when not in possession.
Moyes looks set to deploy his side in a 4-2-3-1 formation. The duo of Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek will be keen to assert its dominance in the middle of the park. Rice missed the win over Watford thanks to being suspended and will be expected to slot right back into the Hammers first XI this weekend. The Englishman will be making his 150th English Premier League appearance for the club, becoming the youngster Hammers ace to reach that milestone.
Said Benrahma scored against Watford and looks set to hold onto his place on the left flank. Manuel Lanzini and Jarrod Bowen will join him as the trio looks to wreak havoc behind Michail Antonio. Player to player, the Hammers have the edge, and it will not come as a surprise if they get the better of their rivals on the night.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Fabianski; Masuaku, Diop, Dawson, Coufal; Rice, Soucek; Benrahma, Lanzini, Bowen; Antonio
- Declan Rice will become the youngest West Ham United player to play 150 Premier League games should he feature on the night.
- Crystal Palace have won just two of their last 13 Premier League games against West Ham United.
- West Ham United have recovered to secure 12 points from losing positions this season, more than any other side in the English top flight.
- West Ham United have won just one of their last nine London derbies away from home. Coincidentally it came against Crystal Palace last season.
- Crystal Palace have lost just one of their last ten home games.
Player to Watch
The Frenchman was sensational against Norwich City and was arguably Palace’s best player on the night. He is expected to lead the line again and will hope to link up with Zaha and Ayew to make a difference. With the latter two set to depart for AFCON, Edouard will be the man to go to for Palace in attack at least for the coming few weeks.
The 23-year-old has the makings of an excellent player and has, to his credit, looked potent of late. In Diop and Dawson, he will face two players who can be inconsistent. Edouard’s pace and ability to make runs into channels could see the home side seize the initiative early on, especially if they start on the front foot. More so, his movement could also open avenues for Zaha and Ayew to move into and exploit.
West Ham have shown themselves to be vulnerable to direct attacks in recent weeks, and in Edouard, the Eagles have just the man to cause their visitors some issues.
Crystal Palace 1-2 West Ham United
West Ham do not just have a bigger and better squad but also more to play for. While a top ten finish will be a positive outcome for Vieira, the Hammers will be eager to break into the top four, especially after coming so close to doing so last season.
With the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea among others set to lose their players for the AFCON, it is not beyond the scope of imagination to suggest West Ham could close the gap on their rivals. Moyes & co. can not afford to cede any more ground in the top four race and will be eager to start 2022 with all three points. That extra bit of quality they possess could do the trick on the night.