West Ham fans need not reminding of the disastrous fourth round FA Cup exit to AFC Wimbledon last season and they will be praying a similar outcome does not repeat itself against Newport County tonight.
The Hammers travel to Wales in the second round of the Carabao Cup, but an affair under lights live on Sky Sports is never an easy feat.
Manuel Pellegrini arrived in east London last summer but failed to make a meaningful impact in both domestic cup competitions. Prior to the Wimbledon collapse in the FA Cup, the Irons were knocked out of tonight’s competition by Tottenham Hotspur in the fourth round; something that, understandably, did not rest well with the Claret and Blue followers.
However, the Chilean manager received widespread criticism from the Hammers faithful after fielding a weakened side in the FA Cup last season and Pellegrini will want to make amends this time around.
Newport have proven to be a tricky customer, though. The Welsh side dumped Premier League opponents Leicester City out of the FA Cup last season in the third round and the season prior achieved a 1-1 draw against Spurs in the fourth round.
So, how can we expect West Ham to line-up for tonight’s clash?
Cup competitions can tempt managers to rotate and provide second-string net stoppers with a chance to prove themselves, but given the stark difference in quality, I would stick with Fabianski.
The 19-year-old full-back was extremely impressive in pre-season and these are the types of matches he can make a name for himself.
Johnson has a lot of potential and he could be in line to start tonight.
The Hammers are without Winston Reid due to injury and 18-year-old Goncalo Cardoso is unlikely to be called upon, which leaves just three options to choose from.
Diop was utilised in both cup competitions last season and I would be surprised if he does not start in Wales.
Angelo Ogbonna has partnered the aforementioned Diop in West Ham’s previous two games and this could be an opportunity for Balbuena to gain some confidence and prove his worth.
Cresswell came under a lot of criticism from fans after a disappointing performance against Manchester City on the opening day and the England left-back hasn’t featured since.
The 29-year-old is deprived of confidence and this could spark his West Ham career back into life with a notable performance.
Wilshere has been underwhelming thus far and he was not included in the matchday squad in West Ham’s 3-1 win against Watford on Saturday.
However, he was rumoured to have a small knock and Pellegrini has hinted at the idea of his return against Newport, and I expect to see him start.
Central midfield is another position the Irons lack depth and strength in, so unless Pellegrini opts to risk playing Carlos Sanchez, we should see Rice start tonight.
Antonio made an instant impact at Vicarage Road last Saturday after appearing as a second-half substitute and he will be hoping his performance merits a start.
The 29-year-old has looked lively thus far and a start against Newport could be in the pipeline.
The Spain playmaker has failed to settle in east London so far and could use a boost in confidence.
With the likes of Manuel Lanzini and Felipe Anderson expected to be rested, Fornals could start and I expect him to operate in the No.10 role.
Yarmolenko suffered a long-term injury in the 2018/19 campaign and signs of rust are still apparent.
The 29-year-old winger started against Watford and I expect him to retain his spot tonight.
Pellegrini has hinted that summer-signing Ajeti will start against Newport and many fans will be hoping he does.
The Hammers are yet to see him in action in Claret and Blue and this will provide a good test for the 22-year-old.