West Ham remain winless from their opening two Premier league matches so far; what starting XI can we expect Manuel Pellegrini to utilise this weekend?
The Hammers will take a short trip to Hertfordshire on Saturday as they face Watford at Vicarage Road. This was the final-day fixture last season, a game where the Irons ran out as comfortable 4-1 winners, but this is poised to be a tougher test this time around.
As for the Hornets, they too have struggled to get the cogs turning this campaign. Javi Gracia’s side fell to an opening-day defeat at home to Brighton before travelling to Goodison Park and returning empty-handed courtesy of Bernard’s first-half strike.
Pellegrini’s side earned their first point of the season at the Amex Stadium after a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Brighton last weekend. However, Sebastien Haller, Felipe Anderson and Mark Noble were absent from the action on the south coast but all make a return this weekend.
So how can we expect the Hammers to line-up against Watford?
Fabianski has made plentiful of vital contributions since moving to east London and was on top form once again against Brighton, ultimately earning the Irons a point.
Fredericks put in a mediocre performance against the Seagulls last Saturday but remains our first-choice right-back.
The 26-year-old was forced off in the first half due to injury when these two sides met back in May and he will be keen to demonstrate his quality this time around.
Balbuena was dropped last weekend for Angelo Ogbonna – who took charge and was named captain – but after a sloppy performance from the Italy centre-back, we can expect the former to start once again.
Whenever Diop partners Ogbonna at the back, he seems uneasy and that was the case against Brighton.
The 22-year-old is much more comfortable alongside Balbuena and that is the pairing we can expect to see against the Hornets.
The DR Congo left-back stepped in for Cresswell last weekend and was one of the better performers on the pitch.
Masuaku completed four tackles and two interceptions against Brighton and looked more defensively astute – we expect him to start against Watford and be an important figure throughout the season.
Rice was often isolated in central midfield at the weekend but still produced a solid display.
The Hammers lack quality in that area of the pitch and he remains one of the first names on the team sheet.
Wilshere was pulled off at half-time against the Seagulls after a thoroughly disappointing 45-minute display.
The England midfielder was seemingly uninterested and strolled around the pitch without much attention to the action. However, with options light in midfield, he should keep his place and has a point to prove to the travelling supporters.
Lanzini was a bright spark on Saturday and was a stand-out performer in a Claret and Blue shirt.
His assist for Javier Hernandez’s second-half strike demonstrated exactly what the Argentine can produce and, operating on the left, I expect him to start in that position once again.
Anderson missed out on West Ham’s trip to Brighton but returns this weekend – and I expect him to start.
Summer signing Pablo Fornals was disappointing against the Seagulls and I feel the Brazil midfielder will replace him on the right-hand side.
Haller was another absentee last weekend but also returns alongside Anderson for the trip to Vicarage Road.
It would be pretty difficult for Pellegrini to not start a striker bought for a club-record £45million.
Chicharito was a ghostly-figure for large parts of last Saturday’s draw but when a striker scores, more often than not they are given a chance to prove themselves.
The Mexico forward benefits from having a striker partner, as does Haller, and I think Pellegrini will opt to deploy both of them against an irresolute Watford defence.