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Selection Dilemmas: Who should play at centre-half against Macclesfield?

After two league games unbeaten, West Ham have an opportunity to continue their EFL Cup progress when they host Macclesfield Town on Wednesday night.

Silverware would represent wonderful progress for Manuel Pellegrini in his first season in charge; but this week’s game is likely to be used tactically.

Giving fringe players a game while resting first-teamers; especially those who are new to English football, will be the order of the day.

That offers up some selection dilemmas; we’ve looked at the centre of defence to kick off with…

Who are the options?

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Winston Reid is still sidelined, leaving Pellegrini with three main options. Fabian Balbuena and Issa Diop are currently first-choice and showing signs of a partnership forming.

Italian Angelo Ogbonna has been forced to wait for a chance lately, and Declan Rice can also play at the back.

One left-field choice is Reece Oxford, who is yet to play for the first-team this season.

Who will they be up against?

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Tyrone Marsh led the line for Town last time out, when they were defeated 2-1 by Morecambe. He scored nine league goals last term as the club were promoted from the National League.

The Englishman is yet to score in five matches in the fourth tier, but he has found the net in the earlier rounds of the EFL Cup.

After coming off the bench, Marsh netted against Walsall in the second round and Town went on to win the game on penalties.

The Debate

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Ogbonna’s lack of recent gametime means that he should be a shoo-in to start here. He played in the last round against AFC Wimbledon and should get another 90 minutes here.

Rice has excelled in holding midfield of late, so moving him into defence would be a risk and a step back.

Oxford – valued at £4.5m by Transfermarkt – is an interesting option, as he would allow Pellegrini to rest both Diop and Balbuena. Both men have had to adjust quickly to English football and could potentially use the breather.

However, a midweek clash with a lower league team would be a useful addition to their respective educations, so Pellegrini will be tempted to keep one of them in.

The Verdict

Balbuena was exceptional against Chelsea and perhaps the best way to get him to maintain that form is to play him here.

Oxford’s attitude, summer stand off and performance for the Under 23’s defeat to Bristol Rovers last week mean he shouldn’t get the nod here.

That means Ogbonna should play alongside Balbuena at the heart of defence.

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