x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

West Ham eye another upset

Visiting east London has not always been a pleasant experience for Manchester United but the Hammers are without Charlton Cole.

Visiting West Ham has not always been a pleasant experience for Manchester United. A 1-1 draw at the Boleyn Ground lost them title on the final day of the 1994-95 season, while three years earlier a 1-0 April defeat to the Hammers allowed Leeds take the initiative and ultimately the championship. Even the Red Devils' side who won the Premier League and Champions League in 2008 were beaten in east London. They may have lost just three of their past 14 visits to West Ham, but today the Boleyn Ground could become a venue where they could once again have their trophy ambitions dashed. A shock home win, just like the one the Hammers pulled off two years ago, coupled with a Chelsea win at Manchester City would leave the champions eight points off the pace at the top of the Premier League. But any surprises the Hammers do spring today will be have to be done so without Carlton Cole.

The England striker, whose seven goals and impressive link-up play have been one of West Ham's few bright spots so far, is unlikely to play again until January after picking up a knee ligament injury in last weekend's 5-3 win at Burnley. That win moved West Ham out of the relegation zone, but it also saw them concede three goals after leading 5-0. "There were a lot of positives to take out of the Burnley game and I think, at this present moment, being positive is what we need to concentrate on," said captain Scott Parker. "Whenever you play United, you have to go into the game believing you can win, otherwise they can outplay you." In their match before Burnley, West Ham were 2-0 up at Hull but ended up drawing the game 3-3. And before that they let slip another two-goal lead, this time at Sunderland. "It's been disappointing over the past few weeks when we've let leads slip but it's something we're working on in training," said midfielder Jack Collison. "We're trying hard to improve every week. We're not going to be down, we're going to take the positives and we scored five good goals." Edwin van der Sar could return in goal for the visitors, but defenders Jonny Evans, John O'Shea and Rio Ferdinand are still out. And the champions said yesterday they will not be signing Adem Ljajic from Partizan Belgrade in January as they are unable to get a work permit for the winger. @Email:akunawicz@thenational.ae West Ham v Man Utd, KO 7pm, Showsports 1

Stoke manager Tony Pulis is worried his team will be on the receiving end of an Arsenal backlash today. The Gunners have lost in the league to Sunderland and Chelsea, and were knocked out of the Carling Cup by Manchester City in midweek. He said: "Arsenal used a lot of their young players against Manchester City's strongest team and were beaten in the Carling Cup. I watched Arsenal against Chelsea last weekend and they were the better team until Chelsea scored. Now they will be facing us on the back of playing a second team against City, one of the strongest sides in the country and losing. Is that a crisis? I think not." Arsenal v Stoke, KO 7pm, Showsports 3

Phil Brown is looking forward to a brighter future after weathering a storm to celebrate the third anniversary of his appointment as Hull manager yesterday. With his team in the bottom three and with just three wins in 2009, Brown was widely reported to be just one bad result away from the sack. But the picture changed with a vital win over Stoke and, with the Tigers unbeaten in three more games since, the outlook seems brighter. Brown, who led Hull to the Premier League in 2008, said: "It has been brilliant, first class. There have been highs and lows and to get to the highs you have to sample the lows, unfortunately, but I am looking forward to the fourth year." Aston Villa v Hull, KO 7pm, Show Comedy Extra

Liverpool defender Glen Johnson has no doubts that his side must continue their fine defensive form if they are to have a chance of finishing in the Champions League places. The Reds, for whom Steven Gerrard will play his 500th game today, managed back-to-back clean sheets for only the second time this season with victories over Debrecen in the Champions League and Everton in the league. "We know that we haven't been picking up the results that people associated with this club expect. Now we want to get on a good run," Johnson said. Fernando Torres has been ruled out of today's match because he has yet to recover fully from a groin injury. Blackburn v Liverpool, KO 7pm, Showsports Extra

Burnley defenders must ignore the criticism that has come their way following last weekend's 5-3 loss at West Ham, according to striker Robbie Blake. The defeat meant the Clarets have conceded 25 goals in seven away games. "Pundits are going to knock us. It's a lot easier for me because I'm a forward but I can imagine some of the defenders wanting to punch the TV," said the 33-year-old forward. "But we are big enough players and we have to take it. It is high-pressure stuff in the Premier League with things highlighted so much. There are no down-beat players in our team - the gaffer [Owen Coyle] would not allow that. We all want to stay in this league." Portsmouth v Burnley, KO 4.45pm, Showsports 1 & 2

Alex McLeish wants his Birmingham side to be "relentless" in their search for points, and will not allow his players to get complacent after their recent fine run. Blues have climbed up to 11th in the Premier League after a five-game unbeaten streak on which they have taken 11 points. "You are only a couple of defeats from a crisis," he said. "We have got in this good position through determination and hard work and skill but it will not stop there. We've got to be relentless in pursuit of points. I'm proud of the performances in recent weeks but the players can't sit back. I don't want any of that nonsense and want them to play every game like it is their last." Wigan v Birmingham, KO 7pm, Show Series Extra

Bolton manager Gary Megson has urged his players to catch up with the pack in the lower half of the Premier League. The Trotters are 18th in the table after picking up only 12 points from their opening 13 games. With today's opponents Wolves two points worse off in 19th place, the clash at Molineux offers Bolton the chance to pull clear of Mick McCarthy's side and potentially lift themselves out of the relegation zone. Megson, however, has his sights set even higher and believes his team should be mid-table. "We can do ourselves a power of good, but it's not just between ourselves and Wolves - we've got to get back into that pack," he said. Wolverhampton v Bolton, KO 7pm, Show Shasha