Friday, 31 October 2008

Boro v West Ham Premiership Preview: Can Zola End 4-Game Hammers Losing-Streak At The Riverside?

Middlesbrough, play Gianfranco Zola’s West Ham United in the Premier League on Saturday at the Riverside Stadium.

Gareth Southgate takes his Boro side into this clash with West Ham on the back of a good 2-0 win at the Riverside against Manchester City on Wednesday. With the Middlesbrough boss hoping his side can build on the three points, having drawn 1-1, with Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park last Saturday. Boro are 9th in the Premiership and have yet to draw at the Riverside this season, winning three and losing two so far at home.

Hammers manager Zola has promised to continue with an attacking style of play at Boro, despite West Ham going into this game at the Riverside on the back of four straight defeats to Bolton Wanderers, Hull City, Arsenal and most recently on Wednesday, Manchester United at Old Trafford. This has seen the East London side drop from being amongst the early pacesetters to 11th in the Premier League. Zola knows that another defeat could see his first foray into management come under severe scrutiny, with a result of some sort vital against Middlesbrough for the Italian.

Boro are without the injured Mohamed Shawky (thigh) and Rhys Williams (knee), but could welcome back Egyptian International Mido, defender Robert Huth and Justin Hoyte if they recover from their respective injuries in time for the visit of West Ham. Julio Arca could start after making his first appearance of the season as a substitute in the win against City, with Southgate revealing that Middlesbrough, have missed him.

Southgate said: “Julio has not had a reserve game since pre-season and it is a bit early for him to come back into it but he's a good professional with a steady head and having him with the squad is important.

“At times his touch was a little bit off but he played two or three magnificent balls while he was on the pitch. There is no question that Julio is one of the players we have missed.”

Zola has a mounting injury crisis for the trip to the Riverside, with summer signing Valon Behrami being stretchered off and will be out for at least a month, after breaking down in his comeback match against United, having missed the match before with Arsenal.

West Ham were also dealt the news this week that striker Dean Ashton is out for the rest of the season, with Kieron Dyer (broken leg), Jonathan Spector (thigh), Danny Gabbidon (groin) and Mark Noble (calf) also unavailable to Zola for this crucial Premiership clash.

Middlesbrough: (from) Turnbull, Huth, Hoyte, Wheater, Taylor, O’Neil, Riggott, Pogatetz, Digard, Mido, Aliadiere, Emnes, Alves, Tuncay, Downing, Arca, Jones, Bates, A Johnson, J Johnson, McMahon, Stelle, Porritt, Owens, Hines, Grounds, Walker

West Ham United: (from) Green, Neill, Ilunga, Lopez, Parker, Bellamy, Etherington, Cole, Boa Morte, Upson, Mullins, Collins, Faubert, Stokes, Walker, Lastuvka, Tristan, Davenport, Reid, Bowyer, Tomkins, Collison, Di Michele, Sears, Srech, Hines, Eyjolfsson, Widdowson, Walsh

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