Man Utd and West Ham knock heads for the second time in four days, this time for a place in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup (8pm Wednesday on Sky Sports 1).
The two teams clashed in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon, when goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Diafra Sakho led to a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford. It was another disappointing result for Jose Mourinho’s (pictured) men, who have won only five of their first 13 top flight matches of the campaign to sit in sixth place. Eleven points now separate the 20-time English champions from the Portuguese’s former club Chelsea in top spot.
The fact that the Red Devils are now highly unlikely to add another Premier League title to their trophy cabinet this year could persuade Mourinho to turn his attention towards the EFL Cup. It is a competition he has taken seriously during his time as a manager in English football. United overcame Northampton Town and local rivals Manchester City to reach the last eight and, despite their stuttering form in recent weeks, are understandably rated as heavy favourites to make it through to the semi-finals as a result of this match.
West Ham have also endured a difficult start to the season, with Slaven Bilic’s side without a win in their last four Premier League outings. The east London outfit remain just a single point outside the drop zone after the first third of the campaign, with only three victories secured in their 13 encounters up to now.
Having said that, the Hammers are unlikely to be dragged into the relegation battle. They have plenty of quality within their ranks, both in forward areas and at the back. They may well use this cup tie as a chance to build on the confidence and optimism that would have been generated from an excellent point obtained at Old Trafford at the weekend.
West Ham got the better of Chelsea in the last round to qualify for this stage of the tournament, with League Two side Accrington Stanley also defeated in their previous clash, and will fancy their chances of causing another upset this time around, too.
Man Utd will have to make do without defensive duo Chris Smalling (toe) and Eric Bailly (knee), while Marouane Fellaini and fellow midfielder and record signing Paul Pogba are unavailable through suspension. Wayne Rooney and Henrikh Mkhitaryan could be recalled to the side after missing out on a starting spot at the weekend, although Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard will hope to keep their places in the front three.
West Ham can’t use Sunday’s scorer Sakho (hamstring), Reece Oxford (ankle), Gokhan Tore (thigh), Sam Byram (hamstring) and Aaron Masuaku (knee). Centre-forward Andy Carroll is nearing a return following an injury lay-off of his own. Bilic’s charges will probably line up in a 3-4-3 formation once again, with Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini set to be key in the attacking midfield zones.
Despite failing to come up with the goods against West Ham at the weekend, this preview believes that it is worth backing Man Utd to come out on top at Old Trafford in this EFL Cup clash.
Even if Mourinho rotates his line-up with half an eye on Sunday’s meeting with Everton, the Red Devils will still benefit from the presence of seasoned international stars in their XI, and that will probably be enough for them to defeat West Ham in front of their own supporters.
A home victory with under 3.5 goals to be scored in total is our idea of the result. Mkhitaryan is this preview’s choice to score a goal at any time.