It’s that time of year again. Finally. After what seemed like waiting for Christmas, West Ham kick-off the their 2013/2014 Premier League campaign against newly promoted Cardiff City at the Boleyn Ground.

The summer transfer window has been, by all accounts, a pretty successful one so far. Yes, we’re still desperately in need of a striker but, there’s still a couple weeks left of the window to sort that out.

That aside, the permanent signing of Andy Carroll and the arrivals of Adrian, Razvan Rat and Stewart Downing have strengthened the side that finished 10th last season. The management are aiming for higher this season and there’s no reason why that can’t be achieved.

As soon as big Andy is fit again then there’ll be no excuses for a lack of goals during the season. With Matt Jarvis and Stewart Downing providing him with ammunition in the box, he’ll be in big trouble if he fails to get off the mark quicker than he did last season.

Our midfield looks extremely strong, especially with the pre-season emergence of Ravel Morrison. We all knew he was a special player after Sir Alex Ferguson labelled him as one of the best players he’s ever coached. So it’s no surprise that he’s finally showing the promise of a player who can compete at the very top of the game. Also, the sheer fact we’ve still got Mohamed Diame at the club is a baffling one. Although we mustn’t grumble, as he’ll no doubt be the influential midfield general he was on so many occasions last season. The quicker the club sort a better contract out for him the better.

There’s no need to question what we can expect from skipper Kevin Nolan this season. He’ll chip in with goals and be a good leader both on and off the pitch. He’s a lot more important to our success than most people believe.

So, as we focus on tomorrow’s game, we welcome Cardiff to the Boleyn with fond memories of that epic 5-0 aggregate play-off thrashing the season before last.

But the Bluebirds are stronger now and shouldn’t be underestimated. After all, they’ve broken their transfer record on three occasions this summer, which is a huge statement of intent from Malky Mackay’s side.

Much has been of how teams shouldn’t take newly-promoted sides for granted over the years and it’ll be no different for us tomorrow. Cardiff will be organised and extremely pumped up for their first ever season in the Premier League. But, with that in mind, Big Sam will have us just as prepared and will no exactly what to expect from Cardiff. We were in the same situation this time last season and that experience will help us no end tomorrow.

A strong start is vital to the way our season goes and it’ll stand us in good stead for that 50 point target Allardyce has set his players. It’s achievable, of course, but we must get the points on the board early.

Verdict: A tight, scrappy, hard-fought win for the Hammers.

Team News:

West Ham United

The Hammers will be without Andy Carroll (heel), James Collins and George McCartney (both knee).

New signing Stewart Downing is expected to start, while Modibo Maiga, the only fit striker at the club, is expected to start.

Left-back Razvan Rat is expected to make his Premier League debut for the Hammers

Cardiff City

Eighteen-year-old left-back Declan John is expected to make just his second first-team appearance.

New-signing Andreas Cornelius is doubtful, but Gary Medel is expected to make his Premier League bow.

Last five meetings:

Possible starting XI:

 West Ham v Cardiff - Possible XI

Match in Numbers

250 – If he plays, Mark Noble will make his 250th first-team appearance for the Hammers

12 – The Hammers conceded a division-high 12 goals in the opening 15 minutes of their games last season

0 – West Ham were the only side not to record back-to-back Premier League wins last season

166 – Stopper Jussi Jaaskelainen made a Premier League high 166 saves last season

36 – Cardiff picked up 36 points on their travels last season, a close second behind Watford (39)

1 – The Hammers have drawn just of their last 18 opening day matches

5 – Cardiff new-boy Gary Medel picked up five red cards for Sevilla between Jan 2011 and June 2013, more than any other player in Spain’s top-flight

4 – The Bluebirds have won four of their last five opening day fixtures, drawing the other.

4 – The Hammers have won four of their last five meetings with Cardiff without conceding

Head-to-Head (all competitions)

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