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West Ham United vs Bournemouth Key Battles


West Ham United and Bournemouth return to Premier League action on Thursday evening when they cross swords at the London Stadium.

The Irons were denied their first win of the year last time out when they were held to a 2-2 draw by Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. Before that, they were stunned 1-0 by Bristol City in the FA Cup third-round replay which ended their four-game unbeaten run across all competitions.

Meanwhile, the Cherries produced a fantastic performance in their FA Cup fourth-round tie against Swansea City, smashing the Welsh side 5-0 at home. It was the fitting response to a 4-0 mauling at the hands of Liverpool in the Premier League five days ago.

With both teams coming into this game off the back of contrasting fortunes, let us take a look at the key battles that could define its outcome.

#James Ward-Prowse vs Lewis Cook

James Ward-Prowse made a lightening start to life at the London Stadium, but his performances in a Claret and Blue shirt haven’t been quite so eye-catching recently. Of course, the Englishman has still exhibited his talents and incredible work ethic off the ball, but he needs to do a lot more to give West Ham the fluidity in their build-up play they have lacked since Lucas Paqueta’s injury.

Expected to operate in an advanced midfield role, Ward-Prowse will look to exploit spaces in between the Bournemouth midfield and create chances in the final third for the hosts. Thus, Lewis Cook must keep close tabs on the West Ham midfielder and restrict him from getting time on the ball.

A tigerish and busy presence in the Cherries’ engine room, Cook has become the quintessential presence in Andoni Iraola’s system. If he can stop Ward-Prowse from influencing the game, Bournemouth’s chances of getting a positive result at the London Stadium will become higher.

#Adam Smith vs Maxwel Cornet

Bournemouth boss Andoni Iraola has confirmed that defender James Hill will be out for around six weeks after picking up an injury in the last game. Hill’s absence adds to Bournemouth’s full-back crisis, as Max Aarons has also been ruled out for some time with a thigh problem, leaving Iraola with no option but to start Adam Smith on Thursday.

Smith has recovered from an injury he picked up against Tottenham on New Year’s Eve but his lack of match rhythm could be exploited by Maxwel Cornet. The Ivory Coast international scored his first goal of the season in West Ham’s 2-2 draw with Sheffield United, and his spirits should be high heading into Thursday’s fixture.

Cornet is pacey and a willing dribbler and won’t be afraid to take Smith on in 1v1 situations. Knowing Smith has not always excelled in individual battles, right-winger Marcus Tavernier will be required to do a lot of tracking back to help out the experienced full-back against Cornet.

#Dominic Solanke vs Kurt Zouma

Dominic Solanke is Bournemouth’s top scorer this season with 12 strikes, thriving under Iraola’s tutelage. He scored five goals in six appearances in December, becoming the first Bournemouth individual to win the Premier League Player of the Month award. Having scored in the 5-0 thrashing of Swansea in the FA Cup last time out, the English striker will head into this game with high confidence.

Stopping Solanke in attack is tough, as the Cherries striker is tricky and can use his burst of pace to outrun defenders. This implies that West Ham skipper Kurt Zouma will have his work cut out at the London Stadium.

Zouma has been the leader of the hosts’ defence, and he along with Konstantinos Mavropanos will have to be on their toes to stop Solanke from getting into goalscoring positions.

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