West Ham United will be looking to follow up their shock victory at title hopefuls Arsenal with success over fellow opening weekend winners Leicester City as they begin their final ever season at Upton Park.
Very few people gave Slaven Bilic’s men a chance of taking anything against their London rivals, and not only because they had lost each of the last 10 meetings home and away. But as it turned out, the win was thoroughly merited as they forced Arsenal into numerous uncharacteristic mistakes, and always looked to pose a significant threat on the counter-attack. It was a bold team selection from the manager, but they executed his gameplan to perfection.
A number of players stood out, with Dimitri Payet showing why the club spent more than £1om to acquire his services over the summer and Mauro Zarate announcing his return to favour by scoring the goal that sealed the three points. But it was 16-year-old Reece Oxford who grabbed many of the headlines with a performance of great maturity and efficiency, never appearing fazed in midfield against a collection of big-name opponents.
Four goals for Leicester in their first game under Claudio Ranieri was also not the result that many predicted, but they produced a fine display of attacking football to see off Sunderland, and they could so easily have scored more. Riyad Mahrez was particularly impressive, oozing confidence as he scored twice and so nearly completed a hat-trick with a shot that came off the frame of the goal. It all sets up a battle for supremacy with Payet for this clash.
If they can maintain that level of performance the prospects for the season are bright, although they know that not every defence they come up against will be as generous as Sunderland’s. If Ranieri had a task to win over some of the supporters and the doubters who questioned the wisdom of the owners in appointing him, Saturday was an ideal start in his attempts to do so, and victory here will highlight the momentum the team has carried from the stunning end to last season.
Andy Carroll, Joey O’Brien and Enner Valencia are all still out for West Ham, who welcome back Carl Jenkinson, ineligible for the win at Arsenal.
Leicester have a near fully-fit squad to choose from, with only Matt James set to miss out. Therefore, they could go unchanged having played so well against Sunderland.
Played for both – Matthew Upson: The England international defender was signed by West Ham from Birmingham City in January 2007. He was made captain early in the following season and was a mainstay at centre-back until the club were relegated in 2011. He spent last season at the King Power Stadium, but was blighted by injuries and as a result made only five appearances.