West Ham United v Aston Villa
Following a depressing weekend for the fans of both clubs, West Ham and Aston Villa face up at the Boleyn Ground on Wednesday night. The two have waited over two months to play the tie thanks to Villa's UEFA Cup commitments, and each will see this as the ideal opportunity to sneak up the table with their game in hand on those around them.
Not that the Hammers' home form of late is likely to fill them with any great hope. They have failed to score in each of their last two outings at Upton Park, losing a London derby on each occasion. However, before this unfortunate pair of results the club enjoyed some success in front of their own fans, with three straight home wins including a fine 3-0 romp against Newcastle.
Unfortunately goalscoring has been tricky for the east Londoners, with just one in ten of their attempts on goal having hit the back of the net. Lingering doubts over the fitness of Frenchman Freddie Kanoute has led to greater exposure for both Paul Kitson and Jermaine Defoe than either was expecting, while Paolo di Canio's return of just three goals in eleven matches - hardly what the West Ham fans have come to expect from their skipper.
A greater level of accuracy with the ball at their feet may help the attacking side of their game. Just 73% of their passes have found their intended target in the league - three percentage points below the average for the division - and with a cross completion rate that is only a little more inspiring (one in four have found their mark) the supply for the front line has been one of the main reasons for the club's struggle thus far.
Converting chances was one of Aston Villa's biggest problems last season, but this time around they have found a new edge up front. A return of 18 goals is not exactly inspirational, but the fact that the team have converted 12% of their chances will give manager John Gregory some heart. The form of Darius Vassell in particular will have brought a smile to the Londoner's face, although his knee is giving just as much worry to Villa as Kanoute's injuries are to the Hammers.
One man with a point to prove is Lee Hendrie. Overlooked in recent months in terms of the England set-up, Hendrie still believes he has an outside chance of figuring in Sven-Goran Eriksson's World Cup plans. His club-best 355 successful passes in the opposition half for Aston Villa certainly give some weight to his claims that he should at least be looked at before the final squad is chosen.
With a 50/50 chance that Eriksson himself will be at the game this is the perfect time for Hendrie to show what he can do, and as a whole Villa will be eager for the three points as they would take the club back up to at least fourth in the league, depending on how Chelsea fare at home to Charlton. surreySPORTS are offering 13/2 on a 1-0 away win, as Villa protect their good defensive record to snatch their third away win of the campaign.
Match referee: M. Dean
Referee Mike Dean upset a few people earlier in the season when he dismissed two players in the Charlton v Leicester fixture in September.
Referee's Name FoulsPenaltiesYellow CardsRed CardsAve Disc pointsM. Dean 117 1 15 2 35.40
click below for in-depth comparisonRepka v Mellberg
West Ham could welcome back skipper Paolo di Canio and Nigel Winterburn for the visit of Villa. Di Canio missed the defeat at Sunderland with a calf problem, while Winterburn has been sidelined for a month with a hamstring problem and could oust Scott Minto. Di Canio is likely to replace England Under-21 ace Jermain Defoe up front. Striker Fredi Kanoute is still out with a hamstring strain, while Steve Lomas is also out with a broken toe.
Lee Hendrie has recovered from illness and has declared himself available for selection. Manager John Gregory is already without Peter Schmeichel, Alpay, Hassan Kachloul and Moustapha Hadji, with Peter Enckelman coming in to take over in goal.
click on links below to place a wager
Match Result West Ham11/8Draw11/5A Villa13/8Correct Score West Ham 1-06/1West Ham 2-010/1West Ham 2-117/2West Ham 3-022/1West Ham 3-118/1West Ham 3-225/1West Ham 4-066/1West Ham 4-150/1West Ham 4-266/1West Ham 5-0100/1West Ham 5-1100/1Draw 0-08/1Draw 1-111/2Draw 2-214/1Draw 3-350/1A Villa 1-013/2A Villa 2-011/1A Villa 2-19/1A Villa 3-025/1A Villa 3-120/1A Villa 3-228/1A Villa 4-080/1A Villa 4-166/1A Villa 4-266/1A Villa 5-0100/1A Villa 5-1100/1Double Result West Ham/West Ham10/3West Ham/Draw15/1West Ham/A Villa28/1Draw/West Ham4/1Draw/Draw7/2Draw/A Villa5/1A Villa/West Ham28/1A Villa/Draw15/1A Villa/A Villa7/2First Goalscorer P Di Canio11/2F Kanoute6/1P Kitson13/2J Defoe13/2I Todorov7/1D Hutchison9/1T Sinclair12/1M Carrick14/1J Cole14/1L Courtois20/1J Moncur25/1S Schmemel33/1C Dailly40/1T Repka40/1S Minto40/1H Foxe50/1N Winterburn50/1R Soma50/1S Potts50/1No Goalscorer8/1D Vassell11/2Jp Angel11/2D Dublin6/1B Balaban7/1H Kachloul10/1P Merson11/1I Taylor14/1L Hendrie14/1D Ginola16/1G Boateng20/1S Stone20/1S Staunton33/1Alpay40/1A Wright40/1M Delaney40/1G Barry50/1O Mellberg50/1
For all these bets + much more go now to surreySPORTS.co.uk
Download directions to Upton Park in Microsoft Word format: - West Ham.docPLAN YOUR ROUTE WITH RAC ROUTE PLANNERBy Rail: RAILTRACK OFFERS AN EASY-TO-USE JOURNEY PLANNER