Fabián Balbuena on dealing with Messi, Martinez, jetlag and Sheffield United
Fabián Balbuena was not about to let jetlag and flight delays stop him producing another strong defensive display in West Ham United’s 1-0 Premier League win at Sheffield United.
The Hammers centre-back had travelled nearly 20,000 to Paraguay, Argentina and back again to feature in two FIFA World Cup qualifiers for his country, and a cancelled return flight to London meant he did not return home until Thursday evening.
However, despite those challenges and having just two training sessions with his West Ham teammates to prepare for Sunday’s trip to Bramall Lane, Balbuena made it four clean sheets in seven Premier League appearances this season with another assured performance.
“It was harder than a normal week, but we have to used to this because it was an international break and me, as a South American player, I have to do a difficult trip, but when we’re back here we have to change the chip and we need to be focused for the game, so we did a good job on Sunday and I think we deserved the result,” he told West Ham TV.
“Every game is tough. We know that already, but I came from ten days and two really hard games in qualifying for the World Cup in South America but, as I say, when I arrived in London I changed my focus totally to be ready for the game.
“The days we trained we did good work to prepare well for the game and we did all the things we worked on during those days to do a good job on Sunday.”
After tackling Lionel Messi and Lautaro Martinez (pictured, below) in Buenos Aires, Balbuena had a different type of attacking threat to deal with on Sunday in the shape of Sheffield United’s powerful forwards Oli McBurnie and David McGoldrick.
“We know every threat is different, but we had seen in a video on Saturday how they played,” he revealed. “We knew they had two good strikers and they like to fight and to head every cross that they put in but, as I say, we worked in the days before to try to stop these things and I think we did a good job and I think we deserved the three points in the end.”
Balbuena was also pleased for another one of West Ham’s international contingent, newly-capped Ivory Coast centre forward Sébastien Haller, who scored the winner in Yorkshire with an unstoppable long-range strike.
“I think Seb and Jarrod and Pablo and all the lads did a good job but especially Seb as we know, as a striker, he needs the goals to give him confidence and on Sunday he had a huge opportunity to score and of course he helped us to get the three points,” the No4 observed.
West Ham are up to eighth in the table after their best Premier League start since 2015/16 and Balbuena hopes the Irons can continue moving up when they host Aston Villa at London Stadium next Monday evening.
“We know the Premier League is probably the best league in the world and a difficult competition and any team can beat you if you let your level drop, but we’ve got two home games now and we will prepare in the best way possible for Aston Villa first and try to continue our good work,” he confirmed.
“First, though, I will go home and rest with my family and enjoy this victory, then from tomorrow I’ll think about the next game against Aston Villa.”