West Ham United head to Bolton Wanderers hoping to record their first ever victory at the Reebok Stadium.
Having taken West Ham into a lofty eighth place in the Premier League, Gianfranco Zola must now attempt to do something the Irons have never before managed – namely claim a win at Bolton Wanderers.
Since the Trotters swapped Burden Park for the Reebok in 1997, the Hammers have visited eight times, drawing twice and losing on the other six visits.
A win on Saturday could potentially see Zola’s men leapfrog Wigan Athletic into seventh in the table, should results elsewhere go in their favour. To do so, however, they will need to put a stop to a run that has seen them go three games without a win.
Yet the Irons have looked good away from home this season and indeed have not lost on their travels since back in October when they returned from Old Trafford empty-handed.
Back In Action
Bolton, meanwhile return to action following a two-week break having been knocked out of the FA Cup in the third round by Sunderland.
The Trotters’ last action was a 3-0 defeat by Everton, a result manager Gary Megson has this week insisted he has forgotten about already.
Certainly Bolton ought to be keen to return to action and Saturday hands them the chance to complete a double over the Hammers. Bolton gave Zola his first defeat as West Ham boss back in October. The Trotters won 3-1 at Upton Park courtesy of goals by Kevin Davies, Gary Cahill and Matthew Taylor.
Should they manage another win over the east Londoners, it will be Bolton’s third successive victory against the Upton Park outfit.
Feb 07: Everton 3-0 Bolton
Jan 31: Bolton 3-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Jan 28: Blackburn Rovers 2-2 Bolton
Jan 17: Bolton 0-1 Manchester United
Jan 10: Arsenal 1-0 Bolton
West Ham United
Feb 14: West Ham 1-1 Middlesbrough
Feb 08: West Ham 0-1 Manchester United
Jan 31: Arsenal 0-0 West Ham
Jan 28: West Ham 2-0 Hull City
Jan 24: Hartlepool 0-2 West Ham
Joey O’Brien is out for the next two months but Gavin McCann, Ricardo Vaz Te, Mark Davies, Johan Elmander and Nicky Hunt have all regained fitness and are available for selection.
Possible Starting XI: Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Cahill, Puygrenier, Samuel, Taylor, Mark Davies, Muamba, Gardner, Kevin Davies, Makukula
West Ham United
The Hammers have injury problems with Carlton Cole missing due to an ankle knock and Luis Boa Morte having torn a calf muscle.
Lucas Neill is suspended and Jonathan Spector or James Tomkins will replace him at full-back.
Possible Starting XI: Green, Spector, Collins, Upson, Ilunga, Collison, Parker, Noble, Behrami, Di Michele, Savio
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Bolton Wanderers – Mark Davies
A few eyebrows were raised when Bolton tempted young Wolverhampton Wanderers starlet Mark Davies to the Reebok in January.
Yet he has sparkled since his arrival and he has recently been celebrating a call-up to the England U21 side.
His debut against Tottenham Hotspur was particularly impressive and Bolton will be hoping for more of the same from their hot, young prospect on Saturday.
West Ham United – David Di Michele
With top scorer Carlton Cole out injured and Craig Bellamy having long-departed for Manchester City, the goalscoring responsibility will fall on David Di Michele’s shoulders.
The Italian has managed four goals this season, from 11 starts, and Zola will be hoping he can add to this tally at the Reebok Stadium.
Whilst the 33-year-old has not scored away from Upton Park, he will undoubtedly be a threat on Saturday and could be the man Bolton defenders need to watch.
West Ham look to be favourites to win this match, however Bolton possess a good recent record against the Irons, particularly on home turf.
Megson’s men will be raring to go after a short break whilst the Hammers will have to cope without top marksman Carlton Cole.
Interestingly there has never been a goalless draw in a league match between these two sides and although that may well continue on Saturday, don’t rule out a score draw.
Bolton Wanderers 1–1 West Ham United
Gill Clark, Goal.com