West Ham United U23s are back in Premier League 2 action on Monday as they travel to the bet365 stadium to face an in-form Stoke City U23s.
The Hammers are currently top of the Premier League 2 Division 2, sitting three points ahead of their nearest challengers Manchester United U23s.
U23s Lead coach Dmitri Halajko will be hoping his side can bounce back from a narrow 4-3 defeat at the hands of Cheltenham Town in the Leasing.com Trophy last time out.
The West Ham squad is set to be bolstered by the return of a trio of players from international duty. Captain Conor Coventry, Gonçalo Cardoso and Harrison Ashby are all set to return as they look to get back to winning ways.
I think the positives that will come out of the Cheltenham game is the learning.
Tonight’s opponents Stoke U23s currently sit third in the Premier League 2 Division 2 table and have not been beaten since August, so Halajko is expecting another stern test for the young Hammers.
“Stoke will be a great game,” he said. “Playing at their first-team stadium will make it an even better fixture for us. They’ve got one of the more experienced teams in the league, quite an old U23s team, with plenty of quality, so it’s going to be a tough, tough game.”
Despite suffering defeat at the hands of Cheltenham Town - his first while leading the Hammers' development squad - Halajko insisted games against senior opposition are crucial for West Ham’s youngsters to further themselves.
“I think the positive that will come out of the Cheltenham game is the learning," he said. "These types of games are tough because of the different types of football that we’ve played against, the different systems that we’ve played against.
“A league stadium in front of a thousand people. The moments that we got wrong, there’s a real massive chance for us to learn from those.”
Without a fixture last week, the U23s have been working hard in training pitch to prepare for the next round of league fixtures.
“We’re back onto the pitch really,” said Halajko. “We had a weekend off, but apart from that we’ve been training hard. We’ve got lots of things we want to get better at, so every session counts, and every day counts.”
Following on from tonight’s game against Stoke City, West Ham U23s are on the road again this Friday as they travel to Norwich U23s.