West Ham v Middlesbrough - Saturday 15:00
West Ham are a shambles at the moment and have conceded at least two goals in eight of their last nine matches, and there is a worrying parallel to be drawn with the plight of Stoke. Like Mark Hughes, Slaven Bilic took over from a more defensive minded coach and added some style to their play, fashioning a more attacking outfit. However, for all the plaudits both managers initially received for their success, it has come at the cost of defensive stability. Payet and Lanzini are key creative players for the Hammers but don’t do much defensive work and as a result the team has become disjointed, leaving far too much space between the lines for their opponents to exploit.
At left-back Bilic has a difficult decision to make. With both Cresswell and Masuaku out injured, the experienced but ageing Alvaro Arbeloa deputized against Southampton. The speedy Adama Traore impressed for Boro in a half hour cameo from the bench at home to Spurs and his direct running could cause all sorts of havoc against the Spaniard, even if his end product remains erratic. West Ham’s problems though are not just restricted to the back, with Simone Zaza virtually anonymous so far as he adjusts to English football. They didn’t force a single save out of Fraser Forster against Southampton and Bilic could desperately do with the return of either Andy Carroll or Diafra Sakho to supplement his forward line.
Middlesbrough were uncharacteristically poor during the first half against Spurs, the defending in particular, and they struggled to string passes together. They put in a combative performance during the second half, pulling a goal back, but it was a case of too little too late as Spurs have an excellent defensive record. With West Ham on the slide though, we think the value lies in Middlesbrough to win and both teams to score at 6.8.