Express & Star

West Ham v Wolves: The inside track on The Hammers

Wolves will take on West Ham as the Premier League returns to action behind closed doors - we delve into the Hammers to see what they will offer against Nuno's side.

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We spoke with Henry Tomlinson, sports journalist and football writer, to see what he had to say about West Ham.

See what he had to say here...

How have the Hammers been preparing during lockdown?

West Ham may have been hindered by the lockdown, the Hammers had started to put some good performances together, although it was not reflected the results. The club should be trying to carry on the level of performances once the season restarts.

David Moyes has been leading training and has taken the squad to the London Stadium so the players can adapt to playing in an empty stadium.

One of the benefits of lockdown has been the chance for players to recover from injury - are there any West Ham players who have had the opportunity to get fit during the break?

The club has seen the positive side of the lockdown however, there have been no positive tests of Covid-19 at the club as of yet. West Ham have also been able to welcome back some long-term injury absentees.

Andriy Yarmolenko, Ryan Fredericks and Jack Wilshere have all returned to full-fitness and are ready help the club push back up the table.

David Moyes

This news has been dampened by the fact Jeremy Ngakia, the clubs young right-back has rejected a new contract and is unlikely to feature. This loss has been softened as fellow academy product Ben Johnson is fit again. Johnson is rated-higher than Ngakia and could play a key role for the Hammers, rotating with Fredericks at right-back.

Do you see the lockdown as a benefit for West Ham, given their treacherous position in the table?

The lockdown will affect many teams in very different ways. Some clubs could be returning to the season without key players, who are objecting to return because of fears over safety.

West Ham could have been hindered by the lockdown due to the level of performances before the break. The club were unlucky not to pick up points against Arsenal and Liverpool but got a good three points against Southampton. The lockdown affecting the club’s momentum was certainly a worry.

But the Hammers have had time to regroup, they should understand what they need to do before the season ends. For the first time in what seems like forever there is a clean bill of health at the club which should push the first team players to perform better.

With the squad being fully fit and pushing each other there is plenty of talent and ability that can be shown in the remaining nine matches that should push West Ham up the table towards safety.

How do you think West Ham will set up against Wolves?

As the majority of the squad is fit, it definitely can cause a selection headache. The starting eleven however, should be quite predictable as no one would have deserved to lose their place. The only imaginable would be Fredericks taking back his place at right-back, displacing contract rebel Ngakia.

West Ham United's Angelo Ogbonna (left) and West Bromwich Albion's Kenneth Zohore battle for the ball

The starting eleven will look fairly familiar, I would imagine David Moyes would stick with his attacking formation of 4-1-2-3. Thee major boost for West Ham will be the strength on the bench. As there has been an increase to the number of substitutes, Mark Noble, Michail Antonio, Andriy Yarmolenko, Jack Wilshere and Manuel Lanzini will all be competing for these spots, meaning there is plenty of potential to change the game if needed.

Starting XI: Fabianski; Fredericks, Ogbonna, Diop, Cresswell; Rice, Soucek, Fornals; Anderson, Haller, Bowen.

Bench: Randolph, Masuaku, Balbuena, Johnson, Noble, Antonio, Lanzini, Snodgrass, Yarmolenko.

Who are the big danger men to worry about in the Hammers' ranks?

Jarrod Bowen has to be one of the club’s best hopes for survival at the moment. Signed from Hull City in January for £20 million plus, the 23-year-old has gotten himself off the mark scoring a great goal against Southampton. The attacker is full of pace and loves direct runs into the box behind the defence.

Bowen also allows Haller to up his game. Haller has needed a strike partner all season and Bowen absolutely fulfils that role as well as being affective on the wing.

Pablo Fornals is also another danger-man at the club. The Spaniard started the season slowly and took his time to settle at the London Stadium, but now he is feeling more at home we are starting to see why the club spent big on him. Fornals has scored three goals this season and assisted five in the Premier League and is probably our key creator at the moment.

Do you think playing behind closed doors actually benefits West Ham, given the unease amongst fans which has often been transferred onto the pitch?

If this had happened a few years ago it would have been a disaster playing at Upton Park behind closed doors and panic would have really set in. Now though it might work in West Ham's favour.

The move to the London Stadium has been a very publicised mess, so there could be an argument for matches to be behind closed doors to be a blessing in disguise.

Players like Felipe Anderson and Sebastian Haller could blossom without the added pressure from fans and potential for a riot to break out against the owners of the club. So, there could definitely be plus points to football going behind closed doors.

West Ham United's Mark Noble

What have you made of Wolves this season so far, do you think they could realistically win a European spot?

Wolves have been incredible again this season. They have built on a successful first year back in the Premier League and have pushed on brilliantly this season. Nuno has been thoroughly backed by very business savvy owners and he has worked wonders since his appointment.

There was a slow start to the season for Wolves but that was most likely down to participating in the Europa League.

Wolves, however, have found a very good balance of playing continental football and domestic and are succeeding in both. There is no reason why they should not finish the season in the top seven, they just need to keep going at their current level, especially as they will not have to worry about the Europa League for the time being. Then there should be no reason why they cannot outrun the chasing pack.

Your match prediction?

Both teams have a lot to play for before the end of the season, but after lockdown it is hard to predict which teams will be in the better shape and fitness. The match could be a very cagey affair with neither wanting to lose the first game back or it could be an all-out attack battle.

West Ham do have the “home advantage”, not that will count for what it once did, but West Ham could still have the edge in this contest, especially with the strength off the bench. Although there are concerns with Adama Traore taking on Aaron Cresswell, it will be a long match for the Hammers left-back.

Final Score, 2-1.

You can follow Henry on Twitter here.