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Weblog: The football punter

Hammers can avoid defeat in Spurs clash

League Cup fourth round
Sky Sports Football, 8pm Wednesday

West Ham are in desperate need of a positive result to lift the mood around the club and they might get it against Tottenham in the League Cup.

Fixtures against London rivals Tottenham have become a big deal for Hammers fans and many of them would give under-fire manager Slaven Bilic some more slack if the Lilywhites were defeated at Wembley.

On the other side of the coin, a defeat could hasten the departure of Bilic, who seemed at a loss to explain the disastrous 3-0 loss at home to Brighton on Friday.Bilic can ill-afford an inept performance against Spurs and is preparing to name a strong side.

Andy Carroll - free from a one-match ban - can expect a recall but many of Friday night's starting line up will be asked to go again, despite the importance of Saturday's Premier League fixture ato Crystal Palace.

Getting Carroll into the side could mean a slightly different role for Javier Hernandez, who may be asked to play on one of the flanks.

Hernandez and Carroll have started as a front two on just one occasion this season (away to Burnley) but it may be seen as a risk too far to play a conventional 4-4-2 away to one of the strongest teams in the Premier League.

Tottenham are high on confidence after following up their 1-1 draw at Real Madrid with a 4-1 demolition of Liverpool on Sunday.

But the clash against the Hammers comes in the middle of a hectic period of five matches in 15 days.

When matches are coming thick and fast, workloads have to be shared and the West Ham game will be viewed as a low priority by the north London club.

There are bound to be some tired legs after last week's efforts and Spurs have another pair of huge matches on the horizon with a trip to Manchester United on Saturday and a Wembley date with Real Madrid on Tuesday.

Pochettino will have to consider resting key players and his room for manoeuvre is restricted with Erik Lamela and Mousa Dembele lacking match fitness and Victor Wanyama injured.

Harry Kane, withdrawn with a slight injury towards the end of the Liverpool game, is set to have the night off and there will be a rare opportunity for Fernando Llorente to lead the line.

Llorente showed his worth with an assured performance in Madrid last Tuesday but has some massive boots to fill and might be short of quality service if an under-strength Spurs midfield fails to click.

Pochettino made six changes for the third-round tie at home to Barnsley and just about got away with it as Dele Alli's second-half goal clinched a 1-0 win.

However, it looks far more risky for him to make wholesale changes against a wounded West Ham, who look overpriced to avoid defeat inside normal time.

Recommendation
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Match in Focus

19:45 TODAY BT3

B Dortmund v Tottenham

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Tottenham have won three of their last 13 European away matches
Expert verdict
The Europa League remains a big deal to German clubs so even though Borussia Dortmund are unlikely to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages expect them to remain interested in securing third place. Tottenham have already qualified for the last 16 and could be more concentrated on Premier League matters.