Michael Carrick and Matt Holland are two of the most underrated players in the top flight when you consider what they do for their respective teams. This Saturday in London's East End there could well be a right old ding dong as they go head to head at Upton Park.
Many West Ham fans have been saying for some time now that Carrick is better than Frank Lampard was before his £11m move to Chelsea and even has a bigger impact on the team than Joe Cole. Holland has been one of the key figures for Ipswich and will also be plying his trade on the world stage this summer with the Republic of Ireland.
The Irish international has attempted over 1,000 passes in the league this season and has seen 79% of them find a team-mate. Even when Ipswich were languishing at the bottom of the table during the first half of the season, they refused to change their pass-and-move style and have been rewarded with their gradual ascent up the Premiership.
Down at Upton Park the Hammers might not have been playing great football in every game this season but at least they are trying to do thing the right way. Carrick is another product of their successful youth set up and has had a big influence on the team this season. He has hit 181 successful long passes (those over 25-yards) and that is more than any other player at West Ham. His range of distribution is something that has been a feature of Glen Roeder's side and a great asset to the club.
Holland has also got a good range and has hit 215 accurate long passes this season, so expect to see this pair spraying balls across the pitch and both trying to dictate the shape and direction of the game.
Winning the ball is going to be one of the key features of the midfield battle in this game and so far during 2001/02 it is Holland that has been the more successful. The Ipswich player has won 94 tackles for his side, which is 22 more than Carrick. However, in terms of quality they are both equally matched with the industrious pair having won 72% of the challenges that they have gone in for.
This game is fairly well balanced and Holland and Carrick are two players that are well matched. The need for points might be more urgent for George Burley and his side, but never underestimate the power of West Ham on their home ground. This season they have let in just 12 goals that is fewer than any other side bar Liverpool so this could well be a tight affair.