Manuel Pellegrini may be tempted to shuffle his Claret and Blue pack for West Ham United’s midweek trip to Manchester City.
With the Hammers back in action at home to Newcastle United less than 72 hours after their visit to the Etihad Stadium, and players available again after injury, Pellegrini admitted in his pre-match press conference that he will make changes to ensure he can field strong starting XIs in both fixtures.
The likes of Issa Diop, Angelo Ogbonna and Felipe Anderson have been ever-presents in recent months, while the likes of Ryan Fredericks, Grady Diangana and the fit-again Manuel Lanzini and Samir Nasri are all pushing for starts.
“We have two games in less than 72 hours so I think it would be intelligent to have a good starting XI in both games,” the manager confirmed. “I am not worried about [the effect of playing at home to Fulham last] Friday to Wednesday – but Wednesday to Saturday yes.
“We will see [if I make any changes against City]. I have not decided yet. We will see who recovers the best. I will also talk with the medical staff. We will decide the starting XI [on Tuesday].”
When asked if he fears any of his regulars are feeling the effects of playing so many matches since the start of December, Pellegrini dismissed that suggestion, but did concede that rotation might be a sensible approach as his squad get ready for the final eleven matches of the Premier League campaign.
“[With] Felipe I think we have a replacement for him,” he continued. “He's a very important player but we have Diangana, you can work with [Michail] Antonio or [Robert] Snodgrass [in his position].
“Issa Diop played the full season, while regarding Pablo Zabaleta, now Fredrericks comes back [for the right-back position].
“Unfortunately for us Angelo Ogbonna played too many games in the last few months, so I think in that position we have more problems than in attack.”
Speaking of the central defensive area, Pellegrini told reporters both Fabian Balbuena and Winston Reid warmed-up with the first-team squad on Monday and are getting closer to being available for competitive action.
“Winston Reid started making the warm up with the team,” he revealed. “He needs some more weeks to work with normality but he is improving and feels very well.
“Fabian, same as Winston Reid, is working in the warm-up with the squad. He’s one step forward [from Reid] so maybe he could be on the bench on Saturday or maximum next week.”