It has been well-documented in the media that Slaven Bilic has his eyes on silverware in his maiden season in charge of West Ham United.
Saturday’s clash with Liverpool represents the chance to knock out one of the ‘big boys’ whilst making history for the Hammers by beating the Reds three times in one season and winning twice at Anfield.
It won’t be easy of course. The Merseysiders will be on a high having just reached Wembley after their shootout win over Stoke City in the Capital One Cup. Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will want to make a real impact after replacing Brendan Rodgers and a double-winning season would act as the perfect start to his Anfield career.
For West Ham United, though, who are on a 30-year barren spell of success, this is their best chance of silverware, should they overcome the Reds.
We are in no danger of relegation, and Slaven has already announced that he would rather have a trophy in his hand than the Hammers reaching the Champions League. Music to the ears of the West Ham faithful I’m sure.
I am sure Bilic will play a strong side, and with the Irons impressing against the big sides, it is a tie that we shouldn’t enter with fear. With Enner Valencia starting to hit his stride, and Dimitri Payet getting fitter by the week, the fifth round is certainly something we should be expecting to be in.
As for the Reds, if Klopp plays anything like the side he played against Exeter in both ties, the Irons will walk to victory – no offence to the Liverpool youngsters but I think we would have too much in the tank.
I like to think of myself of a bit of a football manager mastermind, having taking PSV to the Champions League final on Football Manager I think my record speaks for itself. On that note, here is my XI to conquer the Reds on Saturday.
In goal, I would stick with ‘cup keeper’ Darren Randolph, as it is only fair the Irishman gets his chance to remain fresh, and with the Euros coming up a run in the cup will keep the former Birmingham man happy. And he has fond memories of Anfield, of course, having kept a clean sheet there earlier in the season.
The back four is a tricky one, as some players deserve a well-earned rest, but it is crucial that we play a strong enough foursome to ensure the best chance of victory.
With that in mind, I would put fit-again James Tomkins at right-back although, in all fairness, there isn’t much choice with Carl Jenkinson out injured and Sam Byram cup-tied. The central duo would include Winston Reid, to help get his fitness back to its fullest. And he would be paired with Angelo Ogbonna, who was rested during last week’s 2-2 draw with Manchester City, so getting him game time again would keep him fresh and match ready. There are limited options at left-back, so it will have to be Aaron Cresswell.
In midfield, I would rest Mark Noble, who has played a lot of football this season, and after Bilic mentioned that Mark is struggling with a touch of flu too, I wouldn’t risk the Hammers skipper with the game on Tuesday in mind.
Coming in for him would be Pedro Obiang, who has fallen a little out of favour in recent weeks which is puzzling for me, as I think he is a terrific player. He breaks up play magnificently and his simple passing game allows the game to flow. Partnering him I would have Alex Song, who looked back to his best last week, and will be looking to replicate the performance he produced against City at Anfield on Saturday.
Moving out wide, I would play Enner Valencia and Victor Moses. The pair offer pace and movement and both can finish as Valencia proved last week. It may seem harsh on Valencia moving him back out wide following his success centrally against Manchester City, but I just feel that Michail Antonio deserves a rest.
In the hole – who else but Dimitri Payet? The heartbeat of the side, the creative spark that gets the Hammers ticking, and easily the first name on the team-sheet.
Up front is Nikita Jelavic – a controversial call perhaps, but the Croat has impressed in recent displays and he deserves a chance to continue his fine form. And let’s be honest, we are a little short up front at the moment. Although, if Emmanuel Emenike joins in time it will be a straight fight between the duo as to who starts and who makes up the numbers on the bench.
The bench would be consisting of a mixture of experience and youth, with Josh Cullen, Djair Parfitt-Williams and Leo Chambers making an appearance amongst the substitutes.
I am confident that the team would beat Liverpool, and having seen them defend crosses I think Jelavic would have a field day against Klopp’s men.
Come on you Irons!
Agree? Tweet me or comment below with your XI for the Irons big fourth round clash.