Manuel Pellegrini says West Ham United are in the best shape they have been for some time as they prepare to face Cardiff City on Saturday.
The Hammers have welcomed back Manuel Lanzini, Marko Arnautovic, Fabian Balbuena, Samir Nasri and Ryan Fredericks from injury since the start of February, leading to a run of just one defeat in the last five Premier League matches.
West Ham head to South Wales in confident mood after brushing aside Newcastle United at London Stadium last time out and manager Pellegrini is feeling optimistic about his side’s chances of ending the seasons strongly.
For me, as a manager, it is easier to have big names on the bench to sit behind you than to not have solutions
“We are in a good moment of the season because we are a team that is playing well and in this case we now also have a bench which can make a difference, starting with Fabian Balbuena, and we have also recovered Samir Nasri, so we have important players on the bench and we will see which of them will return to the starting XI,” the Chilean observed.
“We had a lot of important players with long injuries throughout the season and I think that was one of the merits of this team, to try to be involved when it had so many players for whom it was impossible to play.
“For me, as a manager, it is easier to have big names on the bench to sit behind you than to not have solutions, so this is the moment of the season when we should demonstrate the strong squad that we have.”
With Balbuena’s return to the squad, Pellegrini faces a selection dilemma, with Angelo Ogbonna and Issa Diop forging a formidable partnership in recent weeks.
Pellegrini spoke recently of the need to give his centre-backs a rest after a busy period, but neither the Italian nor the Frenchman will want to give up their place in his team, and the manager hinted he will stick with the pair in Cardiff.
“I said that some players, six or seven players, were playing all the games and of course you can say that, at 30, it is different for Angelo than it is for Diop, who is 21,” he said.
“You see Angelo’s performances have been very good and he is in a very good moment. We have recovered Fabian and we will see what happens in the next game.
“Diop has also played a lot of games but in this moment I think that the team must keep it with the same method we have been playing the last games.”