Nottingham Forest travel to West Ham this weekend, looking for three-points to increase the distance between themselves and the bottom three, and increase the pressure on the relegation-threatened Hammers.
After picking up a fantastic point against Manchester City, Forest now turns their attention to this weekend’s encounter as they face off against relegation rivals West Ham. Forest have received heaps of praise for their form at the City Ground, currently going seven league games at home without defeat, a stark contrast from their fortunes on the road. The Reds have been lacklustre and disappointing in fixtures away from the City Ground, registering just six points on the road all season. To make matters worse for Steve Cooper’s side, they look incredibly goal shy when on the road, scoring just three times.
Both sides know this is a season-defining game, none more so than David Moyes with many reports suggesting he could be out of a job should his side fail to beat Forest at the London Stadium. Nottingham Forest have been poor on the road this season, actually, they’ve been the worst side in the league, but with such a crucial game on the horizon, it’s not one they can afford to lose. With Leeds and Southampton facing-off on Saturday, a drop in points could see West Ham sitting second bottom they need to capitalise on Forest’s poor away record to claw themselves out to the bottom three.
WHEN & WHERE?
Where: London Stadium.
When: Saturday 25th February 2023.
Time: 15:00 BST.
Referee: Jarred Gillett.
Assistants: Simon Long, Matthew Wilkes.
Fourth official: John Busby.
VAR: Tony Harrington.
Assistant VAR: Stuart Burt.
Forest and West Ham can both attribute their positions in the table to injuries, among other things. Moyes’ side have been pulled apart by injuries, having spent portions of the season without a recognised striker. The Hammers could be handed a boost by the return of Lucas Paqueta who could be in line to return this weekend.
Steve Cooper’s injury concerns continue. Starting right-back Serge Aurier has been ruled out for up to a month, weakening what already was a makeshift Forest backline. His absence now means forest are without 10 first-team players so the foreseeable future – not what you want in the midst of a relegation battle.
Saturday afternoon will see the clash of two teams battling for survival, but will it be reflected on the pitch? We’ve seen both sides struggle in front of goal this season, which could lead to a dull affair. When it comes to playing on home turf, West Ham are worryingly inconsistent, winning four and losing five of their 11 home fixtures.
West Ham are a side that sits deep and looks cautious when playing out, but in such a high-importance game I can’t see them continuing that way. Moyes knows this is a must-win and should approach the game with the same mentality. Against Chelsea, the Hammers’ main source of creation came from their flanks, looking to progress the ball out wide before crossing it into the box. Playing against a Forest side who sat deep exceptionally well against Manchester City, I don’t think they will find much look with this approach on Saturday. Instead, players like Bowen and Benhrama should use space around the box to create chances, rather than moving out wide.
As said previously, this game is huge for David Moyes and he should likely set up his side on the front foot, which could play straight into Forest’s hands. Forest are a team that moves the ball incredibly quickly, capitalise on mistakes and use pace in behind to create chances. Adding Chris Wood to the mix has also added the target man and poacher striker they’ve been missing since Awoniyi’s injury. This attack could cause problems for West Ham’s backline. Usually sitting in a back three- Aguerd will be crucial for the hammers playing on the right-hand side, using his recovery speed to shut down Brennan Johnson and lockdown any balls played in behind.
West Ham United – Lucas Paqueta
If he’s fit, Paqueta will be crucial for West Ham on Saturday. With Antonio in attack, West Ham can often look isolated and void of creativity when going forward. With Paqueta back in the picture, the Hammers now have a creative option in midfield, who can play balls into Antonio when in the box, but will also be able to create chances for those around him. Forest are a tough side to break down, having conceded just twice in the same game once this year – West Ham will need all the attacking support they can get and Paqueta is just the man to unlock a rigid Forest backline.
Nottingham Forest – Brennan Johnson
The Welsh wonderkid is adjusting perfectly to life in the top-flight, having struggled for form earlier in the season. I’m not sure what they put in the water in Qatar, but since returning from the World Cup, Brennan Johnson has been playing football on a completely different level. The forward is fantastic at getting the ball forward and moving high up the pitch, either scoring or creating goals for his teammates. His pace and acceleration make him near impossible to stop and that will likely be the case again this weekend. It’s going to be tough for him, going up against a defender as good as Aguerd, but with Morgan Gibbs-White alongside him to also cause problems, Johnson’s individual talents could pay dividends against the Hammers.
West Ham predicted lineup vs Nottingham Forest: Fabianski, Kehrer, Ogbonna, Aguerd, Emerson, Rice, Paqueta, Coufal, Bowen, Benhrama, Antonio.
Nottingham Forest predicted lineup vs West Ham: Navas, Lodi, Felipe, Worrall, Williams, Colback, Shelvey, Freuler, Gibbs-White, Johnson, Wood.