David Moyes is set to make a number of changes to his West Ham team to face National League side Stockport County in the FA Cup third round on Monday night.
It is set to be a big evening for County as they face Premier League opposition for the first time since visiting Watford in 2007 for a third-round FA Cup tie. That day County took a surprise 1-0 lead before Watford fought back and ran out eventual 4-1 winners, West Ham will be aiming to avoid such drama and will hope for relatively straight forward progress to the fourth round.
Having been knocked out of the FA Cup by teams in lower divisions three seasons in a row West Ham will be determined to avoid that same fate for a fourth consecutive year.
While Moyes will take the fixture and the competition seriously, he will take the opportunity to rest some of his players and give some valuable minutes to players who have not seen much action recently. With a potential seven matches in 23 days keeping his squad fresh is bound to be a consideration for Moyes when selecting his FA Cup team.
Rotation is what we want to see from this West Ham team, Aaron Cresswell, Declan Rice, Tomáš Souček and Angelo Ogbonna have been involved in every Premier League game this season. These four players should be at best on the bench and if all goes to plan they should remain there for the entirety of the match, however, due to lack of depth in central midfield one of Rice or Souček may be called upon to start this match.
With Arthur Masuaku and Lukasz Fabianski still unavailable through injury and Ryan Fredericks’ ten-day isolation period only due to end on Sunday here is the Hammers lineup we wish to see:
Randolph; Coufal, Diop, Balbuena, Johnson; Noble, Souček; Yarmolenko, Lanzini, Bowen; Antonio.
This is a strong West Ham team and one that should see off Stockport County without too much hassle. Randolph will again deputise for the injured Fabianski and offer great experience in goal.
If Fredericks has fully recovered from coronavirus and is deemed fit to travel he may well start ahead of Coufal, but we do not expect this to be the case. Fabián Balbuena has recently lost his place in the league side after two fine performances from Craig Dawson and having not played since 27 December the Paraguayan will no doubt be keen to start and put in a commanding performance at the heart of the defence.
Alongside Balbuena, Issa Diop should come in for his first start in a month. Ben Johnson has also been out of the side for the past few matches and will come into the back four to complete the defence.
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In midfield club captain Mark Noble will lead the team with Souček his partner, but equally, this could be Rice. The attacking quartet we expect to see is a formidable one, with Andriy Yarmolenko, Manuel Lanzini, and Jarrod Bowen playing behind Michail Antonio.
With Said Benrahma and Pablo Fornals both having started the last match and Bowen seeing only limited football over the festive period, we predict the Algerian and Spaniard to be on the bench for this tie. Antonio is now the only recognised striker in the first-team squad and Monday evening could be the perfect opportunity for the Englishman to get some miles into his legs and build up the match fitness he requires after his recent injury layoff.
Moyes is allowed to name nine substitutes and make five changes during the FA Cup tie and with this in mind, we expect to see youngsters such as Mipo Odubeko and Conor Coventry feature on the bench. Eighteen-year-old Odubeko has been training with the first-team squad this week and the former Manchester United youth team player is expected to make his senior debut on Monday.