West Ham welcome Aston Villa to Upton Park on Saturday with the teams only separated by a point in the Premier League. The Hammers head into the game on the back of a goalless draw away to Swansea, whilst Villa go into the game after losing 2-0 at home to Everton last time out. Villa didn’t manage to win one Premier League game in October, and they will want that to change in November as they face teams in a similar position to themselves, starting on Saturday against the Hammers. The Hammers haven’t won since a famous 3-0 victory away to Tottenham at the start of the month. They will be hoping November will bring more victories as they too face some teams immediately around them.
West Ham currently have a number of players out through injury. The Hammers long term absentees are Andy Carroll (Ankle) and Alou Diarra (Knee) who have been out since the beginning of the season. Added to that list is Matt Taylor (Calf), George McCartney (Knee), James Collins (Hamstring) and Ricardo Vaz Te who dislocated his shoulder in the Hammers game against Swansea. Defender James Tomkins faces a late fitness test in order to be available for the game.
Villa have only three players out with injury. Defender Jores Okore is out for the season with an ACL injury. Midfielder Charles N’Zogbia is out with a calf injury for the foreseeable future. Defender Gary Gardner could return to the squad after a back injury.
The Hammers have won two of their last three at home to Aston Villa in the Premier League. However, these wins are the only two they have managed in their last ten fixtures against the Villans in the Premier League. West Ham have only picked up nine of a possible thirty points against Villa, a record they will want to improve starting on Saturday. Villa’s last away win at West Ham came in April 2011, when they won 2-1. The last time the two teams met, it was Villa who came out on top, again winning 2-1. Villa talisman Christian Benteke was on the score sheet that day, and he will need to be on form if Villa are to win on Saturday. This is particularly evident as Villa have only scored in one of the three game Benteke missed through injury this season.
West Ham captain Kevin Nolan has had a quiet season so far in comparison to his recent standards. The midfielder had scored twenty-two goals in his last two Premier League campaigns for Newcastle and West Ham. Last season he was the Hammers’ top scorer with ten goals, showing how important he is for his team. This season he has only managed to score once, which is disappointing by his usual standards. This could be due to the Hammers playing without a recognised striker, who Nolan would usually feed off. Despite that, there is no excuse for Nolan’s shot accuracy of 10%. Nine of the ten shots Nolan has taken have been off target, which needs improving. The return of Carlton Cole could see the Hammers go back to playing with a recognised striker, which Hammers fans hope will a see a return to goal scoring form for Nolan.
As stated earlier, Benteke is an extremely important component of Aston Villa’s team. The striker returned from injury last weekend following an injury sustained at Norwich. Benteke has started five games this season scoring four, continuing the great form that he showed last season. The Belgian has had a shot accuracy of 77%, with seven of his nine shots being on target. He has also had an extremely high chance conversion rate of 44%, showing the clinical edge that he possesses. Benteke’s physical presence is particularly important away from home as he holds up the ball and allows players like Agbonlahor and Weimann to thrive for Villa. Paul Lambert will hope his striker can continue the good form he has shown this season in Saturday’s game.
Both teams will believe that they can win this game. Christian Benteke could prove a big factor. The Villa striker missed a penalty in their last game against Everton, and how he reacts to that will be important. The Hammers have not won at home since the first game of the season, so it is important that they get a result. Villa have only lost one of their four away games this season and this makes for interesting game. My prediction is a 2-1 win for Aston Villa.