Manchester United travel to Upton Park in a vibrant mood as they take on West Ham United in the Quarter-Finals of the Carling Cup.
The Reds go into the match in red hot form following their thrashing of Blackburn Rovers 7-1 in the Barclays Premier League at Old Trafford on Saturday, so United should be well on their way to defend their back-to-back Carling Cup titles.
Despite their lowly league position, West Ham should also be in a good state-of-mind having defeated fellow relegation companion, Wigan Athletic, 3-1 in west London.
The stars from the weekend’s romp will more than likely be rested for a very compact festive period fixture list to come for United, so it will give some of the capable fringe players an opportunity to make Sir Alex Ferguson think as to who he should play where and against who.
These two sides squared off at Old Trafford at the beginning of the season, and United walked out easy 3-0 winners on that day.
Wayne Rooney, who completed his first Premier League game scored a first-half penalty after Ryan Giggs was upended by American left-back Jonathan Spector, who spent the first part of his English top-flight career at United.
Then a top quality finish from Nani at the start of the second-half sent United on their way, but Dimitar Berbatov, who scored five goals against Rovers at the weekend, capped off the scoring with a superbly taken half-volley.
Like Blackburn at the weekend, the Irons did not offer too much resistance for the Reds going forward, so United were good value for all three points.
As mentioned before, West Ham are at the foot of the Premier League table and have been in the relegation places since the first match of the season.
The Hammers have more wins – three – in the Carling Cup than they do in their 15 matches in the Premier League – two.
West Ham has knocked off two fellow Premier League clubs to get to the quarter-finals, beating both Sunderland (2-1) and Stoke City (3-1) in the Third and Fourth Round, respectively.
Prior to those matches, the Irons avoided complete embarrassment as they needed a very late goal to defeated League Two side, Oxford United, 1-0.
Another amazing statistic about West Ham’s form in the Carling Cup is that they have only scored eight fewer goals than they have in the Premier League – 14 in the league and six in the Carling Cup.
Without question, Scott Parker, who scored the late winner against Oxford United, is the Irons best player, and he was quite influential against Wigan, and deservedly got on the score sheet.
Another player that has shown well for West Ham is Frederic Piquionne, who is tied with Park as the club’s leading goal scorers with four goals apiece.
The West Ham defense is anchored by their aging club captain, Matthew Upson, and the erratic Robert Green in goal, which has seen them give up 26 goals in the Premier League.
One player who has struggled this season has been Carlton Cole, and the outspoken England international has scored only once in 17 total appearances.
The wholesale changes will definitely be made to the United line-up with Tomasz Kuszczak set to make his first start since October 22 against Bursaspor in the UEFA Champions League.
The Carling Cup always offers a lot of young players their chance to perform on center stage, and the likes of Chris Smalling, Gabriel Obertan, Javier Hernandez, Federico Macheda and Bébé will all play a role of some sort against West Ham.
It is very unlikely that Sir Alex will run the risk of playing his key first-team players, but Wayne Rooney, who is short on matches, could very well figure in somehow, though.
Based on the form of the two clubs, Manchester United should overcome the challenge provided by West Ham United, but, like the FA Cup, the Carling Cup offers teams the chance to put aside their league troubles and perform like champions.
Out: A. Valencia (leg), O. Hargreaves (hamstring), M. Owen (hamstring); Doubtful: P. Scholes (groin), D. Fletcher (ankle)
T. Kuszczak; J. O’Shea, W. Brown, C. Smalling, Fabio; G. Obertan, R. Giggs, D. Gibson, Bébé; J. Hernandez, F. Macheda
West Ham United 0 Manchester United 2