West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini is expected to ring the changes for the midweek clash with Oxford United. West Ham travel to The Kassam Stadium on Wednesday evening to take on Oxford in the Third Round of the EFL Cup.
After safely progressing past Newport County in the last round, Pellegrini’s attention now switches towards Oxford. There are several West Ham players hoping for rare starts in this game and here are three that cannot afford to waste this opportunity.
Last season, Fabian Balbuena and Issa Diop were the first-choice central defenders for West Ham. But the Paraguay international has lost his place to Angelo Ogbonna at the back.
Diop and Ogbonna have contributed towards three consecutive clean sheets in the league. Given Ogbonna’s fine form, Balbuena faces a battle to get back into the starting line-up.
The 28-year-old is unlikely to force his way back into the Premier League team with tomorrow night’s game. But he can certainly damage his chances with a poor performance. It is up to Balbuena to show Pellegrini he is still a solid and dependable centre-half.
Jack Wilshere has had a frustrating spell at West Ham, hampered by injuries. After shining as one of the standout players in pre-season, the 27-year-old was tipped for big things this season.
But his early-season form suggested he is still not back to his best. Wilshere even dropped out of the matchday squad for a while but he got some minutes under his belt against Manchester United on Sunday.
In the last round of the cup, Wilshere scored against Newport. The occasional England midfielder will need to show his class against Oxford as Manuel Lanzini’s injury could open a door for him.
It has been a frustrating start for Albian Ajeti since his deadline day move to West Ham. The former FC Basel striker has been limited to just one appearance – in the EFL Cup against Newport.
The Switzerland international did not set the world alight on his debut but he needs time to adapt. When West Ham face Oxford, Ajeti has the perfect opportunity to get off the mark in England.
Ajeti is a natural finisher with a stunning record in Switzerland. But the 22-year-old now needs to prove himself in England. He needs to show why he can push Sebastien Haller for Premier League minutes.