West Ham United will look to extend their winning streak against rivals Tottenham Hotspur to four matches when they kick-off their 2014/15 Premier League campaign at Upton Park on Saturday.
Despite completing the double over the White Hart Lane side last season – and knocking the North Londoners out the League Cup - an unconvincing tally of 40 points left Hammers’ fans questioning the position of manager Sam Allardyce ahead of the forthcoming campaign.
Given the backing of the club’s board over the summer but with the remit of playing a more positive and expansive brand of football this time around, Allardyce still enters Saturday’s London derby under scrutiny.
Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs side present a big test for the Irons, with the recently-appointed Argentinean re-invigorating his squad over the summer with additions such as Ben Davies, Eric Dier and Michel Vorm.
Record signing Erik Lamela has also been re-integrated into the squad and will hope to make an immediate impact this term after the disappointment of last season.
The £30m winger had a debut season to forget, ending the campaign on the sidelines due to injury but has been heavily involved in pre-season, scoring on a couple of occasions during Spurs’ warm-up matches.
The Hammers have also been busy in the transfer market this summer but new signings Enner Valencia and Carl Jenkinson are both expected to miss out through injury.
The former impressed hugely at the World Cup and will hope to build on the three goals he scored for Ecuador in Brazil when he returns to fitness.
Allardyce has bolstered his defence this summer with the capture of Arsenal right-back Carl Jenkinson on loan, as well as the £7.5m signing of Ipswich Town left-back, Aaron Cresswell.
Cheikhou Kouyate, signed from Anderlecht, will add a physical presence in the centre of midfield, with the Irons utilising a 4-3-3 system in pre-season.
Spurs have returned to the 4-2-3-1 favoured by Tim Sherwood’s predecessor, Andre Villas-Boas, meaning it is a straight shoot-out between Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado to get the central striking berth.
With Gylfi Sigurdsson also returning to Swansea City, the left-sided supplementary forward slot is very much up for grabs.
Davies and Dier could make their Tottenham debuts, though the club’s most-recent acquisition, DeAndre Yedlin, will remain with Seattle Sounders until the beginning of next season.
Striker Andy Carroll (ankle) will definitely miss out for the Hammers, whilst Ravel Morrison (groin) and Matt Jarvis (knock) are both doubts.
Pochettino will give late fitness tests to Michael Dawson (knock), Vlad Chiriches (back) and Kyle Walker (groin).