Mark Noble

Team News: Moyes to blend West Ham United's youth with experience against Dinamo Zagreb

David Moyes intends to blend youth with experience when naming his squad for Thursday’s UEFA Europa League Group H tie with GNK Dinamo Zagreb.

With West Ham United already assured of top spot and automatic progress to the round of 16, the manager will take the opportunity to rest a number of his Premier League regulars at London Stadium.

Having lost defensive trio Angelo Ogbonna, Ben Johnson and Kurt Zouma to injury in recent matches, and with a busy Premier League and domestic cup fixture list to prepare for either side of Christmas and the New Year, Moyes is set to hand opportunities to some of the Club’s brightest prospects.

The Scot has previously given first-team debuts to Harrison Ashby, Aji Alese, Jamal Baptiste, Daniel Chesters and Sonny Perkins, and all five could be involved again after helping the U23s storm to the top of the Premier League 2 Division 1 table this season.

Speaking in his pre-match press conference at Rush Green on Wednesday afternoon, Moyes spoke of his excitement at seeing Academy players make their way in the senior game.

“Any young players who I give debuts to deserve any opportunity they get, because they’ve been doing so well, certainly since the start of the season,” he explained.

“Some of them will get a chance to step up and show what they can do and all I can ask is that they are well supported and are well backed. It’s really good to give young players opportunities because we’ve all been young and we’ll give them the chance to grab something and hopefully they’ll make the most of it.

“I’m really looking forward to giving some of them their debuts. I’m also excited for them and I’m also nervous for them, because I think that’s what it is when you give some young players opportunities, you’re so keen for them to do well and I’m sure their families will come to watch them play. From that point of view, we’ll undoubtedly have some young players in the team, but we’ll also have a lot of senior players in the team as well.”

And Moyes said it would be down to those senior players – he confirmed Czech Republic international Alex Král and Croatia attacker Nikola Vlašić will both start – to help their less experienced teammates come through the game against a strong Dinamo Zagreb side who know a win will see them join the Irons in the Europa League knockout stages.

At the same time, as someone who gave senior debuts to the likes of Wayne Rooney and Ross Barkley during his time at Everton, the experienced manager challenged the young players to rise to the challenge and make the most of their opportunities to impress him.

“Experienced players, you would hope would help manage them, but I also think the young players have got to stand up as it’s an opportunity for them,” Moyes explained.

“I also think, if I was a young player at the moment, I’d see West Ham as a club which gives young players opportunities at the right time. There are other clubs who don’t give them opportunities, so we’re trying to give them that chance and we’ve made the opportunity to do so.

“I think that’s all you can do, and you can see for yourself which ones can make the step. We won’t judge them on one game, but as we well know one game played very well can make a big difference to what is ahead of you.”

Moyes also used his press conference to give positive updates on the conditions of Johnson and Zouma, who both suffered hamstring injuries during Saturday’s 3-2 Premier League win over Chelsea at London Stadium.

“We don’t know exactly yet [how long Kurt and Ben will be out for] but we’re not fearing it’s as bad as we first thought, that’s for sure,” he revealed, before again challenging others to step up and fill the void left by their absences.

“Kurt has been very good for us and I think everybody has been impressed. He’s come with the experience we expected for a player who has come from Chelsea, who won the Champions League last year and he obviously has Premier League experience.

“He’s a big miss for us and he’d be a big miss for anybody, but we’ve got other people who helped get us into Europe last year and they are fit and ready to play, so hopefully they’ll be good.”