Looking to stay in the top three in the Premier League, Manchester United travel to face over-achieving West Ham United on Sunday at Upton Park. The Red Devils seek to duplicate this year’s first meeting between the two sides, when they held off the Hammers 2-1 in a league match.
Eighth-placed West Ham will be without defenders James Collins and Winston Reid and may not the services of star forward Andy Carroll, as well. The two defenders suffered hamstring injuries last week against Liverpool. Carroll has an ankle injury and might not be risked.
Manchester United, on the other hand, haven’t lost on the road since falling to crosstown rivals Manchester City in November. Since the City game, Manchester United have just one loss in 16 games, with the lone blemish a 1-0 defeat to Southampton on Jan. 11. Manager Louis Van Gaal seems to be growing more confident in his rather inconsistent squad.
"It shall be very difficult to catch Chelsea, but it is mathematically possible,” he said, referencing a 10-point gap between his side and the league leaders. “So we shall try to do everything we can to win every game. We are capable of doing that.”
Van Gaal did admit he wouldn't bet on them catching Chelsea. Manchester United can, however, jump Southampton for third place in league standings with a win. Entering the match, Van Gaal’s side are tied for fourth with Tottenham Hotspur at 43 points. The Red Devils remain ahead of Spurs on goal differential, 17-6.
A good sign for Manchester United is that forward Robin Van Persie has played well in the squad’s last two matches, the latest a 3-0 win over Cambridge United in the FA Cup. He scored in the match prior to the Cambridge win, a 3-1 drubbing of Leicester City in Premier League play. Despite some uncertainty about his role with the club, Van Persie has scored a team-best nine league goals. Containing an in-form Van Persie, along with Wayne Rooney and Radamel Falcao, could pose serious challenges to an under-manned West Ham defense.
But the Red Devils will face a West Ham squad that have excelled at home. Only Arsenal have managed to beat Sam Allardyce’s side in the last 10 Premier League games at Upton Park.
Along with winger Stewart Downing and the hampered Carroll, forward Diafra Sahko gives West Ham a legitimate attacking presence and a chance at coming away with a win. The 25-year-old leads his team with eight league goals. Sahko might not be available to play, however, his place in the side in doubt because of a possible breaching of FIFA regulations.
West Ham played Sahko in an FA Cup win over Bristol City despite his not traveling with Senegal to the African Nations Cup because of injury.
The Hammers are coming off a 2-0 loss to Liverpool at Anfield, but in their previous three matches have wins over Bristol, Hull City, and Everton across all competitions.
Start Time: 11:15 a.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC Sports
Live Online Stream: A live stream is available at NBC Live Extra here.
Prediction: West Ham 1 - 1 Manchester United