West Ham eye FA Cup progress as Fredericks looks for a start
PUBLISHED: 09:30 25 January 2019
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Hammers boss Manuel Pellegrini must strike the right balanace in team selection
With an important Premier League trip to Wolves coming up on Tuesday night, an FA Cup clash at AFC Wimbledon tomorrow night (Saturday) does not seem a huge priority.
But Hammers boss Manuel Pellegrini is determined to book a place in the fifth round and avoid a giant-killing by the League One basement boys.
He will shuffle the pack, but he wants to make sure that he picks a team strong enough to see off Wally Downes’ men.
“We need to use the whole squad,” said the boss. “We have a game against Wolverhampton on Tuesday, but is is very important that we continue in the FA Cup.
“I think it will be a big mistake if we think we are going to beat Wimbledon because they are in a bad moment, or because they lost their last game.
“The FA Cup is a different competition, everyone wants to show that they can go through, so first we will take on Wimbledon.”
West Ham overcame a resilient Dons side in the Carabao Cup back in August, coming from behind to win 3-1, and it showed that the cup can be a great leveller.
“All the teams at the start of the FA Cup must have the thought that they can win the trophy,” said Pellegrini.
“I remember Wigan winning the cup in the same year they were relegated. It is just one game and so anything can happen.”
Ryan Fredericks came through 45 minutes of an under-23 match earlier in the week and the manager will hope that he can fill in for Pablo Zabaleta.
Lucas Perez has trained all week and will look to be in the squad at Wimbledon after failing to make the 18 at Bournemouth, while Pellegrini remained tight-lipped about the prospect of striker Marko Arnautovic returning to the team.
“We will see on Friday the names on the squad list for the match,” he said.
“Marko is working with us without any problem. I don’t know what is happening with him. It is impossible for me to know the future.”
It seems unlikely that Pellegrini will risk him on Saturday night, perhaps saving him for a place on the bench at Wolves.
But it is hard to say just what frame of mind he is in after being told he will have to wait until the summer to move.
First, there is the matter of seeing off Wimbledon as West Ham look to pick up their first major trophy since 1980.
Not that the boss is thinking that far ahead.
“We are not thinking about winning the competition,” he insisted.
“You have to go game by game. We must try and beat Wimbledon and then you must always be a bit lucky with the draw, so we must go step by step.”