Two sides with two of the lowest goal tallies in the Premier League meet up on Saturday at Upton Park (11 am ET, watch live online via NBC Sports Live Extra). Fans tuning in will be desperately hoping that Aston Villa’s visit to West Ham won’t result in a dour, goalless draw.
With the pragmatic Sam Allardyce in charge, West Ham boast one of the lowest rates of goals conceded in the league. That caution has helped the hosts avoid the relegation zone, albeit barely. The Irons may have managed that 3-0 victory over Tottenham a few weeks back, but that was followed by a loss to Manchester City and a yawning 0-0 against Swansea.
Big Sam isn’t helped by a long casualty list, one that’s left him without traditional forwards for the majority of the season. Carlton Cole still isn’t set for a start, although he is on the bench, while Matthew Taylor and Mladen Petric are the newest bodies on the physio table. Former Villa man Stewart Downing starts, Matthew Jarvis is on from the beginning with Ricardo Vaz Te out injured, and Ravel Morrison completes the trio of “strikers” for the hosts. Will someone manage to find a goal?
The visitors sit just two points above West Ham and are looking to get over a rather dismal run. Back to back 2-0 losses, to Spurs and Everton, followed a let’s-never-talk-about-this-again goalless draw against Hull City. Now that three straight games have passed without the Villa scoring, the pressure is on Christian Benteke to bring his side back to winning ways. They’re without the injured Gabby Agbonlahor once more, so Andreas Weimann partners Benteke in a 3-5-2.
West Ham United starting XI: Jaaskelainen, Demel, Rat, Tomkins, Reid, Noble, Collison, Nolan, Downing, Jarvis, Morrison
Subs: Adrian, O’Brien, Potts, J. Cole, Diame, Maiga, C. Cole
Aston Villa starting XI: Guzan, Lowton, Bacuna, Vlaar, Clark, Baker, El Ahmadi, Westwood, Sylla, Weimann, Benteke
Subs: Steer, Helenius, Herd, Bowery, Tonev, Kozak, Johnson