This Saturday afternoon in what will be a clash of two familiar teams West Bromwich Albion and West Ham United, the FA Cup 5th round proper should have something exciting in store as usual. The Baggies will hope they take their new found touch during their efficient 2-o win over Swansea at the Hawthorns in midweek, into this cup competition where Tony Pulis’ side would like to progress and see what impact that makes on their league displays. Talking about home advantage in his presser, Pulis urged the fans to keep driving them on when they host a side as tough and organized as the hammers and also touched on the importance of progressing to the next stage for West Bromwich as a football club with rich history and tradition. He said,
“It was terrific to hear the fans really getting into it on Wednesday night – that is much more like what we want. It’s always a two-way thing with the players getting the supporters going and then feeding off the noise to play even better. Now we have this tough tie and it won’t be made any easier by the fact that West Ham will have a small army of fans stacked behind one goal. They are a top side having a very impressive season and it will be a lift for them. But I know that if our fans are ‘at it’ like they were on Wednesday they will really lift our boys.”
Sam Allardyce has put himself in the spotlight after throwing a few verbal punches on Louis Van Gaal’s long-ball style following a 1-1 draw at home to Manchester United, a game where he felt he should have got more than what he did eventually. In midweek, the hammers escaped with a goal-less draw at St.Mary’s having reduced to 10 men after the sending off of goalkeeper Adrian, with the final third of the game to go. They are enjoying a largely successful season so far and are still alive in the race for the Europa League spots but Allardyce would certainly love a longer cup run to give the fans something to shout at the end of the season.
Tony Pulis will have to cope with the absence of key duo in Olsson (hamstring) and Mulumbu (calf) when they face West Ham on Saturday whilst Victor Anichebe could make a return to the fold after recovering from a minor groin strain.
Allardyce was already missing first choice defenders in James Collins and Winston Reid and is now set to be without record signing Andy Carroll for the next month after he suffered a recurrence of his knee injury during the 0-0 draw against Southampton. Goalkeeper Adrian was sent off at St Mary’s Stadium meaning he will miss miss the fifth round tie as a result of the imposed ban. Kevin Nolan was forced to miss the game at Southampton with a foot injury while Mark Noble sidelined with a virus. But both might require late fitness tests in order to confirm their availability for Saturday’s crunch encounter.
West Ham have lost just one of their last nine games in all competitions.
Both the sides have found the net in four of the last five games in all competitions.
This will be the first meeting of the two teams in the FA Cup.
Saido Berahino – West Bromwich Albion
Berahino has had a stellar season so far for the baggies and has clearly been their best player with 15 goals to his name in all competitions. After a brief spell of dissatisfaction with life at West Bromwich which led to speculation about his ambition to move to a bigger club and bolster his chances of breaking into the national side, Berahino has begun to get them goals again including the crucial goal against Swansea in midweek that sealed all 3 points for the midlands club. Having scored 4 times already in just 2 appearances in this season’s FA Cup, Berahino is always a good bet to find the net anytime in front of the home support that would help his side overcome a regimented West Ham United.
Stewart Downing – West Ham United
If anyone wants to describe West Ham United this season in two words, I’d suggest them not to look for anything beyond these – Stewart Downing. Such has been Downing’s importance to West Ham this season, one could say it’s turned out to be a perfect marriage. Not just his contribution to the side in terms of goals and assists that really matter though it does in the grand scheme of things. It’s the diligent nature of the player that enables him to run up and down, help his full back contribute more attacking wise, makes him one of the main reasons for Sam Allardyce’s tactical advantage over his counterparts, at least at Upton Park. With 7 assists in the Premier League and 5 goals, Downing has also created an astonishing 64 chances in 24 league appearances. He could well be the difference between the two sides in this tight FA Cup 5th round fixture in prospect.
Very very difficult one to call this. I’d stick my neck out and go for a narrow home win though.
West Bromwich Albion 1-0 West Ham United