Premier League Preview: West Ham United – Hull City

The focus has been very much on off-field matters in recent weeks at West Ham United, but the upheaval recently undergone by the club seems to be having a positive effect generally.

David Sullivan and David Gold have swept into the club in typically brash fashion, but have also brought their distinctive brand of hard-nosed business competence to the Boleyn Ground, and seem to have given the Hammers organization a much-needed kick up the backside.

Despite some initial public reluctance about Sullivan’s statements of intent regarding the club’s wage structure, manager Gianfranco Zola has responded to the regime change positively, with his players now seemingly fully aware of the seriousness of the situation in which the club finds it self.

Consistency is still an issue for the Hammers, but their surprise 2-0 win over Birmingham City last week showed what they are capable of when in the mood. Now Zola will want to see a repeat against a team with whom they are firmly locked in the Premier League’s basement battle.

Hull City boss Phil Brown is beginning to look like one of football’s survivors. After steering the Tigers to Premier League safety by the skin of their incisors last season, the former Derby County manager seemed destined for the sack this season as City stumbled through the opening part of the season.

Stability off the field at the KC Stadium seems to have led to a little more solidity on it though. Without ever looking like world-beaters, the Tigers have managed to keep picking up vital points along the way and turn out the odd surprise like their win over Manchester City of a fortnight ago.

They also managed a draw with Chelsea just before that, but both those fine results were achieved at home. Away from home the Tigers are yet to win a Premier League game this season. That win over the Citizens was the club’s first since November though, and Brown will want to start adding quickly to his side’s current 24-point total.

One possible boost is the return from injury again of Jimmy Bullard. The midfielder is a vital part of Hull’s battle to stay in the Premier League and could make his latest comeback against the club he supported as a boy.

Brown will be praying that there won’t be a repeat of Bullard’s last trip to the East End in January 2009 though. An injury sustained that night saw the midfielder sidelined for 10 months.

FORM GUIDE

West Ham United

Feb 10: West Ham 2-0 Birmingham City (Premier League)
Feb 6: Burnley 2-1 West Ham (Premier League)
Jan 30: West Ham 0-0 Blackburn Rovers (Premier League)
Jan 26: Portsmouth 1-1 West Ham (Premier League)
Jan 17: Aston Villa 0-0 West Ham (Premier League)

Hull City

Feb 10: Blackburn Rovers 1-0 Hull City (Premier League)
Feb 6: Hull City 2-1 Manchester City (Premier League)
Feb 2: Hull City 1-1 Chelsea (Premier League)
Jan 30: Hull City 2-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers (Premier League)
Jan 23: Manchester United 4-0 Hull City (Premier League

TEAM NEWS

West Ham United

Benni McCarthy is doubtful with the knee injury he suffered on his debut for the club two weeks ago. Guillermo Franco and Kieron Dyer come back into contention after proving their fitness in training this week. Luis Boa Morte, Zavon Hines and Herita Ilunga are all out with knee injuries, whilst Danny Gabiddon is out with a hamstring problem.

Last Starting XI (versus Birmingham City): Green; Faubert, Tomkins, Upson, Ilunga, Diamanti, Parker, Kovac, Behrami, Mido, Cole.

Hull City

Ian Ashbee and Geovanni are both out with knee injuries. Kamel Ghilas is out with a thigh problem, whilst Dean Marney’s absence with a calf problem continues. George Boateng is available again after suspension.

Last Starting XI (versus Blackburn Rovers): Myhill; McShane, Mouyokolo, Gardner, Dawson, Fagan, Boateng, Cairney, Hunt, Altidore, Vennegoor of Hesselink.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

West Ham United

Scott Parker‘s dynamism at the center of the Irons midfield could be vital if Zola’s men are to avoid relegation. The player’s commitment and quality are not in any doubt, but he must now try and exert more influence on the younger players around him if the Hammers are to find the consistency they crave.

Hull City

Should Jimmy Bullard make it onto the pitch then surely all eyes will be on the man who could re-inject City’s survival bid with new life. A galvanizing presence in any midfield, the player’s work rate, enthusiasm and quality could be crucial not only tomorrow but for the rest of the season.

PREDICTION

West Ham 2-1 Hull City

(GC/MG/rex)

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