West Ham United will look to heap on the misery of Leicester City when the two meet at the King Power Stadium on New Year’s Eve. The Foxes have had a year of extremes. While they defied all odds and cynics to maintain their momentum and win the title to complete one of the most astonishing fairy tales of modern day football. But the snags started cropping up when they had to deal with Champions League and domestic football this season. Although they have surprised again in Europe, at their very first attempt, remaining unbeaten en route to the Round of 16, the same can’t be said about their League campaign. Currently languishing in the 16th spot they are perilously close to the relegation zone.
West Ham, on the other hand, started off poorly but have turned it around in recent weeks and are ahead of the Champions by 5 points. A win will see them break into the Top 10 and by the looks of it, the match is going to be an end to end affair.
Let us take a look at 3 key battles which could affect the outcome-
ANTONIO VS FUCHS
Antonio has been West Ham’s best and most effective player this season and that is saying a lot considering that the Hammers have Payet in their ranks. With 8 goals and 1 assist, he clearly is their main threat.
His raw pace and physicality see him outjump and outmuscle the fullbacks and his goal tally is even more credible due to the fact that he has spent a fair number of matches at right-back and right wing-back.
Fuchs has a difficult task on his hands and the Leicester man will have to curb his attacking instincts to play close attention to his English counterpart.
SLIMANI VS REID
In Vardy’s absence, Slimani will be stepping up, fans will hope literally, into the striker’s role and the new signing will look to repay the trust shown in him by the manager.
Having settled fairly well, it is time for him to push on now and he needs to do that against West Ham. The Hammers have their fair share of problems at the back but Reid has been the standout performer and he needs to stifle the big forward and look to dominate the battle between the two big boys.
DIMITRI PAYET VS DANNY SIMPSON
The French international has been touted for a move away after West Ham’s horrific start to the season but the subsequent steadying of the ship will probably see him bide his time till the summer. He hasn’t been close to the levels of last season but his quality has shown through in vital moments and he is their chief creator with 7 assists and 2 goals.
His partnership Antonio has been particularly fruitful and Simpson will have a job on his hand in trying to cut off the supply line. He has to stick close to his man and ensure Payet doesn’t get a chance to run havoc.