West Ham new boy set for first start in Crystal Palace showdown
PUBLISHED: 08:30 30 January 2018
Antonio could be on the bench for injury-ravaged Hammers
West Ham new boy Joao Mario is set to make his first start tonight as the Hammers look to bounce back from their FA Cup horror show at Wigan Athletic.
The Portugal international midfielder came on at half time at the DW Stadium on Saturday, but could only watch on as Arthur Masuaku was red-carded for spitting and then Wigan grabbed a second and clinching goal.
But manager David Moyes felt he had seen enough to give him a start against Crystal Palace.
“I was pleased with him,” he said. “I don’t think he gave the ball away too often and he was neat and tidy.
“I think it is blending him into the team that is the big thing and getting him used to what is required in the Premier League, but he is no mug.
“He is experienced and has been in European Championship Finals etc.
“He is fit enough, I was a bit concerned about where he would be because of his lack of games, but I think he looks like somebody who can move quite well.
“Obviously the speed and intensity of the game will tell us if he is ready for 60 minutes or 75 minutes.”
Moyes is battling to get skipper Mark Noble fit for the game after he trained for the last couple of days, but with Pedro Obiang out for some time and Cheikhou Kouyate also struggling, he will need his captain on the field.
“We have got people close to returning and hopefully there are a few others who can come back soon as well,” said Moyes.
That could mean a return for defender Jose Fonte, who has been out for the last three months and not played under Moyes, while Michail Antonio could make a welcome return, although both are more likely to be on the bench.
Moyes admits that this game will be tough against a revitalised Palace side under former England boss Roy Hodgson.
“I know Crystal Palace are a good team and they are just outside the top six among the form teams,” said Moyes.
“Roy has done a great job there. When you think where they were when he took over, he has done really well.
“It will be a tough job for us, but it will be a tough job for them as well.”
Injuries may be the crucial thing on the night and bringing players back who are not 100 per cent fit, is a big gamble.
“There is a chance that we might have a couple round the squad and round the team,” he said.
“Some may come in out of necessity, but they could probably do with some extra training and a bit more football, but sometimes that is what you have got to do.
“Antonio is one who will be close, but he is someone who is a big powerful boy and we have to make sure that we don’t do things too quickly.”
The match starts at 7.45pm.