West Ham boss will have ‘strong squad’ for Cheltenham cup tie
PUBLISHED: 14:00 23 August 2017
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Adrian set to start as Bilic is determined to avoid banana skin
West Ham back-up keeper Adrian is set to be included in the starting line-up for tonight’s EFL Cup second round tie at Cheltenham Town.
There had been conjecture that the player would not want to be cup-tied if he was going to leave the club in this transfer window, but manager Slaven Bilic shook off those suggestions.
“We are going to make some changes, but we want to keep the second goalkeeper on his toes,” said the boss.
“Last season it was Darren Randolph coming in, so this time Adrian will be in goal of course.”
The Hammers travel to Whaddon Road for a potential banana skin clash which is being televised by Sky Sports.
And Bilic is well aware of striking the right balance between a strong side and bringing in some fringe players.
“It will be a strong squad. Maybe a few of the players who are not fully fit are going to stay at home, but at the moment, Winston Reid is the only one at the club who is injured and he should be back after the international break.”
Often the League Cup is an opportunity to blood youngsters in the team, but Bilic knows that the need for a win may over-ride that.
“You can’t do both,” he said. “We know it is a cup tie and we are talking about the importance of the game and that we want to progress.
“Ideally we would play all the youngsters, but we want to win the game, so a few of them could start on the bench and hopefully they will come on.”
New boy Sead Haksabanovic has been training with the first team this week and could well be one of those on the bench, while Nathan Holland and Dan Kemp will also look for a chance.
League Two Cheltenham Town should be no match for the Premier League team, but the manager has still done his homework on them.
“I know they are 4-4-2, I know that they play very simple football and I know that they lost at the weekend 3-0,” said the boss.
“I know they play very direct and they are a very, very tall and big side. They have full backs who take very long throws, treating them like corners and they can put seven or right players into the box.
“I know enough and we analyse the set-pieces and have been practising.”
West Ham fans have suffered at the hands of lower-league clubs in the past, while Bilic almost experienced it himself last season.
“We had a similar game last season when we played a League Two team at home in Accrington and we needed a free kick from Payet in the 92nd minute to win it.
“We definitely need a win to get a boost. There is a chance to have a platform to improve our performances, but also to boost our confidence with a win.
“This is an important cup and it is good to have a game like this before the Newcastle game.”
West Ham should go through to the third-round draw, which ridiculously takes place at 4.15am tomorrow morning in China.
“I didn’t know it was then,” said the Croatian. “It is always nice to listen to who you get. It is only when you are out of the cup that players and fans are starting to say it wasn’t important to us.
“I will not be able to sleep if we lose and if we win, I am probably going to wait for the draw.”
Many West Ham fans could be saying the same.