Hughes v Hammers Grant in the sack race

West Ham travel to Craven Cottage on Boxing Day for a vital league clash with both managers under pressure.

IF YOU believe everything you read in the papers, then the Boxing Day clash at Craven Cottage will be a real battle in the sack race.

Whoever loses out in the relegation battle on Sunday between Mark Hughes and Avram Grant is apparently destined to join the ever expanding dole queue – which suggests that it will probably be a draw.

Hughes has hardly set the world alight since taking over from Roy Hodgson at the Cottage.

He has been hampered by the loss of star striker Bobby Zamora with a broken leg, as well as injury to �5million signing Moussa Dembele from Alkmaar, but even so, the Welshman has failed to ignite his team.

Draws have been their problem, especially at home where five of their nine fixtures have finished all square.

They have managed to beat Wigan (2-0) and Wolves (2-1), but couple that with a failure to win all season on their travels has seen them slump to fourth from bottom with 16 points from 17 games.

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One man who has stood out for them is American striker Clint Dempsey – the nemesis of West Ham keeper Robert Green and the one to watch on Sunday.

Aside from that goal in the World Cup, Dempsey beat Green last season in the 3-2 win at the Cottage, and followed it up with a snapshot goal at Upton Park back in October in a 1-1 stalemate, where Freddie Piquionne’s second half strike levelled it up.

Last season’s victory for Fulham was their first over the Hammers in nine games, so West Ham will be hoping that normal service is resumed on Boxing Day when they come face to face once again.

Zamora may be missing, but West Ham fans should have the treat of seeing former cult hero John Paintsil playing against them, which is always entertaining.

More news that may be welcomed by many Hammers fans is that midfielder Luis Boa Morte is suspended after picking up five bookings and will miss the trip back to his old club.

Can West Ham end a dismal run of 27 league games without an away win? Probably not, but a point may be the order of the day.

Possible team: Schwarzer, Hangeland, Paintsil, Hughes, Salcido, Etuhu, Murphy, Gera, Dempsey, Davies, Kamara.


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