In terms of formation Allardyce has opted for a traditional 4-4-2 for significant chunks of the season, although West Ham have been known to set up in a 4-5-1 away from home which may well be the case for tonight’s game. The Hammers may be overloaded with the number of strikers on their books, but playing just one up front on the road has shown Allardyce’s reluctance to take many risks, going for functionality over aesthetics.
West Ham will be missing two of their bigger names for their trip to the Fylde coast, with both Kevin Nolan and Matt Taylor out due to suspension. Papa Boupa Diop is also unavailable through a hamstring injury. If Allardyce does choose to play a lone striker, then it is likely to be Carlton Cole, with Ricardo Vaz Te and Julien Faubert providing assistance from wide when West Ham go forward. Abdoulaye Faye or James Tomkins will act as a screen in front of the defence, which Blackpool will have to be at their best to break down. One perceived weakness is the lack of pace possessed by their full-backs, but on a bobbly pitch it will be difficult for ‘Pool’s wide players to run at them, as was the case against Portsmouth just over a week ago.
In recent weeks Baptiste, along with Matt Gilks, has been one of the few constants despite a number of changes being made for the cup games. Having assumed the captain’s armband for the 2-0 defeat at Goodison Park at the weekend, it is likely Baptiste will continue his run in the side (injury permitting), although in which position remains to be seen. If Baldock or Nicky Maynard feature heavily, then Baptiste may be required centrally, but it is probably more likely he will be deployed at right back to combat the aerial threat that West Ham can pose. In a ‘Pool side that generally lacks height Baptiste may be required alongside two traditional centre-backs, which means Neal Eardley will once more miss out.
West Ham – James Tomkins
A product of the West Ham youth system, Tomkins has been an important fixture in the Hammers this season. A versatile player, Tomkins has been utilised at both centre back and as a defensive midfielder in front of the back four. Tomkins was at the centre of transfer speculation in January and linked with £4m moves to Newcastle and QPR, but instead chose commit his future to West Ham by signing a new long-term deal. The Hammers possess one of the meanest defensive records in the Championship and Tomkins is a major part of that.
Blackpool – Barry Ferguson
The reasons behind Ian Holloway’s decision to change his team for cup matches are perfectly valid – utilise the breadth of his large squad, keep players fresh for league matches, etc. – but one man was most certainly missed away at Everton…Barry Ferguson. The former Scotland skipper’s performances have been understated but nonetheless vital as ‘Pool have climbed the table. Ferguson adds a presence and a steel to the midfield that is often only obvious when he doesn’t play. Against a team such as West Ham, the inclusion of Ferguson is a necessity, especially with the pitch in its current condition.
West Ham – Mark Noble
Noble made his 200th senior appearance for his boyhood club last week and marked it by wearing the captain’s armband in the absence of the suspended Nolan. The 24 year old midfielder has been a key component of the West Ham side in recent weeks including a man of the match display in the 2-1 win over fierce rivals Millwall. Noble also has responsibility for corners and penalties, scoring twice from the spot in one match when the Hammers beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 a couple of weeks ago.
- Blackpool currently sit in 3rd in the Championship form table based on the last six matches, winning four and drawing twice
- West Ham currently sit in 6th in the Championship form table based on the last six matches, winning four, drawing once and losing once
- Blackpool are unbeaten in the last eight league matches at Bloomfield Road
- West Ham have won only one of their last five away league matches
- West Ham have the best away record in the Championship, having lost only four times on the road
- West Ham score an average of 1.47 goals away from home, while conceding an average of 1.07
- 53% of West Ham’s away matches this season have seen fewer than 2.5 goals
- Blackpool have scored 10 goals after the 85th minute in league matches this season
- West Ham have conceded seven goals after the 85th minute in league matches this season