West Ham United will be hoping to maintain their wonderful form as they push for European football, and their latest opponents are a Swansea City team that now has the satisfaction of having secured mathematical safety.
The hosts are still not totally out of Champions League contention, and their hopes are improved by the fact that they have a game in hand on fourth-placed Manchester City. The first target however will be to make absolutely sure of a top six finish, with pressure coming from both Southampton and Liverpool. But the way Slaven Bilic’s team are currently performing, it is going to take a sudden and sharp downturn in fortunes to deny them pulling off an achievement that was well beyond their pre-season expectations.
While they unquestionably rode their luck in the opening exchanges of their last outing away to West Bromwich Albion, once they edged ahead the Hammers showed their true class and it was the ever reliable midfield pairing of Cheikhou Kouyate and Mark Noble who took the limelight with goalscoring contributions. Noble is having the best season of his career so far and is thriving more than ever under Bilic, but Kouyate is arguably even more indispensible.
As they still have plenty to play for and are on a lengthy unbeaten run in the Premier League, it is hard to look past West Ham as the favourites, but Swansea cannot be ruled out as they are now playing with the freedom of a side with the weight lifted off their shoulders. He has not received a great deal, but Francesco Guidolin deserves immense credit for guiding the Welsh club to survival, as they were on a huge downward spiral when he arrived back in January.
The squad has always been good enough to stay up comfortably, but a lack of application led Swansea to be dragged into a mess at the bottom. Six wins from 14 games have solved their problems, and they gave their best display for some time last weekend when they cruised past an albeit weakened Liverpool side. The style of football was much more akin to the club’s identity, while Andre Ayew came back to the fore as he scored twice to take his tally for the season to double figures.
Darren Randolph will be in goal for West Ham as first-choice stopper Adrian is absent. Otherwise, Bilic has no new injury problems to contend with.
Swansea will field a weakened side as Ashley Williams is set to be rested and the quartet of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Neil Taylor, Jefferson Montero and Alberto Paloschi.
Last Meeting: A well-taken goal on the break from Wilfried Bony put Swansea ahead against the run of play in December 2014, but the hosts came roaring back as Andy Carroll scored twice either side of half-time to turn the game around. The game was effectively over when visiting goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski was sent off, and West Ham wrapped it up late on as Diafra Sakho finished coolly after being played through.
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