WEST Ham United have a dilemma – go for victory, or make sure they don’t lose.
Despite an array of attacking talent a Premier League team would be proud of, the Hammers are expected to go with just one up front and a five-man midfield.
That is a nod to how strong Blackpool are at home. And it is also a precaution, for defeat for West Ham tonight and the Seasiders will move to within two points of their promotion rivals.
Boss Sam Allardyce doesn’t want that.
The 57-year-old, who cut his management teeth at Bloomfield Road in the mid ‘90s, has calmly steered the Hammers up the table with the minimum of fuss this season. He got the job in the summer, six months after being controversially given the boot by the poultry experts at Blackburn.
Allardyce is well known for his meticulous preparation and it was no surprise to see him in the directors box at Goodison Park, getting a close-up look at the Seasiders.
Given how many changes Ian Holloway made for the Cup game (seven ... Barry Ferguson and Stephen Crainey didn’t even travel), just how much Allardyce will have learned about Blackpool is debatable.
Holloway reckons it will have been of some use to the West Ham boss though.
“Sam will have learned if he can get us to sit off them and not close them at the right time, then we’ll struggle,” said the Pool manager.
“We had a weakness down one side at Everton and that allowed them to get in and cause us problems.
“But Sam is a good manager. He knows exactly what he’s doing and he will play the way he wants to play against us.
“He also knows his team were four goals better than us at his place (West Ham winning 4-0 against the Seasiders at Upton Park in October), so we’ve got to try and use the memory of that to get at them at our place.
“He knows damn well that I won’t be picking the team I did at Everton, so let’s have a go.
“We’ll see what he does, but to be honest I don’t care what he does – it’s about us.”
The main threat for the Hammers is nine-goal top scorer Carlton Cole, who is expected to start as a lone striker tonight.
Midfielder Mark Noble, captain in the absence of the suspended Kevin Nolan, has seven goals and makes the team tick.
Ricardo Vaz Te, signed from Barnsley during the transfer window (West Ham beating Blackpool to the wideman’s signature), is expected to replace Matt Taylor in a five-man midfield.
Taylor is banned after getting his marching orders in the Hammers 1-1 draw against Southampton last time out.
With West Ham not in action at the weekend, and Saints winning (4-0 v Derby), it means they have slipped to second heading into tonight’s encounter. Pool are three places and five points behind, with Reading and Cardiff in third and fourth positions.