Odds: Manchester United 19/20, The Draw 12/5, West Ham 11/4
Slaven Bilic has much to thank Leicester, Tottenham and Chelsea for…
The trio’s headline-hogging dynamiting of the Premier League status quo has allowed the Irons’ push to the brink of the top four to pass relatively unnoticed.
While the football world watches the Foxes’ high-wire act with bated breath, his Irons have been allowed to go about their own iconoclastic mission with the bare minimum of media scrutiny.
Not only are they fifth in the Premier League, one point behind fourth-placed Manchester City, but they have a fighting chance of reaching the FA Cup semis.
The continued travails of Manchester United and Louis van Gaal are another 2015/16 narrative to have been given far more air time than the Bilic’s fine first season at the Boleyn Ground.
Marcus Rashford’s Hollywood-scripted emergence is the latest Red Devils silver lining to be engulfed by the untimely cumulonimbus of back-to-back defeats.
Meanwhile, the Irons, who beat Everton at Goodison Park for the first time in donkey’s years last time out, have been allowed to proceed with little comment.
Win, Lose or Draw?
The magnitude of evidence in favour of backing West Ham to beat United is liable to have the Ben Nevis tourist board hurriedly helicoptering boulders to it’s peak lest it lose its Britain’s-tallest-status.
Bilic’s boys are in far better form than their hosts, having lost as many games in their last 20 outings as United have in their last two.
They’ve also got the best record in the Premier League against top-half sides bar none and have already won at the Emirates, Anfield and the Etihad this term, as well as drawing 0-0 at Old Trafford.
More recently, they ended Tottenham’s six-game top-flight winning streak with a 1-0 win at the Boleyn Ground.
Their opponents were fortunate in the extreme to beat, rather than lose to, a stuttering Watford side in their last home game and were comfortably outplayed when fatiguing themselves for this fixture against Liverpool in midweek.
In better form, more rested and under comparatively little pressure, it would take a timid punter not to back West Ham here.
United have the best home defence in the division, after conceding just seven times in 14 Old Trafford outings, yet their recent 3-2 ding dong win over Arsenal highlights an underlying fragility that a cup tie could well tease out.
The Irons’ last three road games have produced a combined 15 goals, while five of their most recent seven aways rewarded over 2.5 goals backers.
Diafra Sakho rubberstamped his return from injury with a strike off the bench against Everton last time out to further bolster the threat levels posed by the Bilic’s dangerous attack.
Who will do the damage?
Making a late, but concerted bid to catch Roy Hodgson’s eye ahead of Euro 2016, Michail Antonio has to be any goal punter’s first port of call.
He’s bagged in each of West Ham’s last three outings, all of them victorious, despite being stationed at right-back for the most recent two.
Two of the last three tussles between these adversaries have seen at least one player dismissed for some form of naughtiness or another and the Irons have form for ending matches a player light this term.
Only Southampton have seen more players sent off in the Premier League, while they also saw red once in all three rounds of their abortive Europa League campaign and in the last round of this competition.