Aaron Cresswell’s anticipated return is West Ham’s only change to the team that drew 1-1 with Aston Villa on the last day of last season. Ben Johnson drops to the bench – the other six substitutes were all also on the bench at the start of their last game. So from the 18-man matchday squad for the Villa game Cresswell comes in, Conor Coventry drops out, and the other 17 names are the same.
The team sheets have been handed in, and tonight’s star performers will be as follows, with highlights including debuts for Jamal Lewis, Jeff Hendrick and Callum Wilson:
West Ham: Fabianski, Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Soucek, Rice, Bowen, Noble, Fornals, Antonio. Subs: Balbuena, Yarmolenko, Felipe Anderson, Lanzini, Haller, Johnson, Randolph.
Newcastle: Darlow, Manquillo, Fernandez, Lascelles, Lewis, Shelvey, Hayden, Hendrick, Wilson, Carroll, Saint-Maximin. Subs: Joelinton, Ritchie, Krafth, Fraser, Almiron, Gillespie, Sean Longstaff.
Referee: Stuart Attwell.
Well then. It’s hard to know what to make of this game, between two teams that have taken very different approaches to this transfer window (so far). West Ham have not exactly transformed the squad that flirted with relegation last season, with the permanent transfer of Tomas Soucek, who signed from Slavia Prague initially on loan in January, the only action their chequebook has seen. They will be hoping to carry their decent form from the end of last season into the start of this one, though last weekend’s 5-3 friendly defeat to Bournemouth doesn’t inspire an enormous amount of confidence and they seem to have a few issues with their squad, particularly at full-back.
“They were good towards the end of the season but we have a chance that’s for sure,” said Newcastle’s Steve Bruce as he looked forward to this game. “We took four points off them last year and had one of our best displays away from home down there. Whether that will stand us in good stead this season? I hope so. Let’s see.”
Let’s see indeed. Newcastle have had rather more encouraging dealings with Bournemouth in the final days of the summer break, bringing in Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser, and hoping both rediscover their free-scoring, wildly-creative form of 2018-19 rather than recreating the less inspiring action of last season. They’ve also added the experienced Jeff Hendrick and the youthful Jamal Lewis to their squad, and have memories of winning 3-2 (having led 3-0) at the London Stadium last November. The teams’ last 11 encounters have featured 34 goals and very little boredom, so we’ll hope for more of the same this evening. Whatever we get, welcome!