Steve Bruce’s Hull City side will head to West Ham this Sunday looking to get themselves out of the Premier League relegation zone. West Ham meanwhile, face no such fears, sitting pretty in 7th place the Hammers still have an outside chance of qualifying for European football. Having lost top scorer Nikica Jelavic and record signing Abel Hernandez last weekend, adding to Bruce’s injury woes, it will be a much depleted Hull team that takes to the field this Sunday. The Irons themselves saw their midweek FA Cup clash with Everton go all the way to penalties, and could show signs of fatigue come Sunday.
The two sides last met on Monday, September 15th. Neck and neck at the time, a thrilling encounter resulted in a share of the spoils with a finishing scoreline of 2-2. Since then, however, the two sides have had rather contrasting fortunes. Plagued by injuries, the Tigers find themselves down in 18th and without key men such as Andy Robertson, Robert Snodgrass, Liam Rosenior as well as former Hammer Mo Diame, meanwhile Gaston Ramirez and Sone Aluko will face late fitness tests to see if they can be available this weekend. West Ham on the other hand have enjoyed some wonderful form since that game at the KC Stadium. 8 goals by summer signing Diafra Sakho has helped the London club towards the upper reaches of the league and even a brief spell in the top four. The timely return of an in-form Andy Carroll has also offered Big Sam’s men another dimension going forward.
A betting men would look towards the hosts in this clash then, Steve Bruce has been desperately trying to bring in a striker in this window due to the injury troubles of his two front men Jelavic and Hernandez but has been unable to complete any business before this weekend’s clash. Contact was made with Blackburn Rovers over Rudy Gestede but the two clubs were too far apart in their evaluations of the Frenchman. Hull’s only surviving striker, Yannick Sagbo, chose this week to announce his intentions to leave the club and return to France’s Ligue 1, suggesting a start is unlikely for him this Sunday. Bruce will most likely rush Gaston Ramirez and Sone Aluko back from injury, both of whom trained for the first time since their injuries today. The two will probably form an unlikely forward partnership, as they did in Hull’s 3-1 Boxing Day win at Sunderland.
Sam Allardyce on the other hand has the luxury of a largely fit squad and Hammers fans will be delighted to have Alex Song back in the side after his absence through illness. Despite the contrasting league positions, the two sides are in very similar form, both having picked up six points from their last six games. However, West Ham will see this game as a home banker, and with games against Liverpool, Manchester United, Southampton, Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea on the horizon, Big Sam will be keen to put three points on the board prior to what could be a tough run of games.
Without a genuine attacking threat, Steve Bruce will most likely head to the Boleyn Ground in search of a draw. Although without a number of players the side still has a strong core, with the likes of Chester, Dawson, Davies, Huddlestone and Livermore available, Bruce will hope the spine of his team can take a point back to East Yorkshire. With the danger of Carroll and Valencia though, the Hull defence will have to be on top form to carry out such a game plan. Personally, I can’t see the Tigers taking anything from this one. I think Steve Bruce will look to sit deep and try and hit West Ham on the counter but the Hammers should have too much about them.
My prediction: West Ham 2-0 Hull City