Saturday's big match preview

West Ham United v Man United Saturday, December 5, 3pm Upton Park WARMING up for a clash with the champions by playing Burnley, is like getting ready for a race against Usain Bolt by jogging round your living room. The Hammers may have rattled in five goa

West Ham United v Man United

Saturday, December 5, 3pm

Upton Park

WARMING up for a clash with the champions by playing Burnley, is like getting ready for a race against Usain Bolt by jogging round your living room.


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The Hammers may have rattled in five goals on Saturday, but a quick look at their defensive frailities suggests that it could be a tough afternoon for Gianfranco Zola's boys.

Add to that the absence of star striker Carlton Cole and you get a feeling of dread about this game.

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Of course, the champions lost Cristiano Ronaldo for a mere �80million to Real Madrid in the summer, as well as Carlos Tevez to their City rivals for just �22m, but their absence doesn't seem to have affected them too badly.

Luis Antonio Valencia has moved up the road from Wigan, while Michael Owen has come from relegated Newcastle, otherwise it is business as usual for Alex Ferguson's boys.

However, let's make a case for West Ham to win this big clash.

For a start, United are under pressure from Chelsea, who have stolen a march on them and lead the Premier League by a healthy five points.

Secondly, United have already lost three away games this term.

They went down at Liverpool, Chelsea and of all places, Burnley, and despite impressive victories on their travels at Portsmouth, Stoke City, Wigan Athletic and Spurs, they have lost their air of infallibility.

West Ham's recent record against United is also good.

They may have lost to Ryan Giggs' classy goal last season, but the previous two encounters between the two ended with Ham-mers victories.

Anton Ferdinand and Matty Upson earned them a 2-1 victory the previous season, while Nigel Reo-Coker's infamous hand to the ear celebration goal was enough the campaign before.

United had a Carling Cup clash with Spurs this week and face a Champions League match with Wolfsburg next midweek, so maybe their eyes will be off the ball.

Maybe, but it does seem unlikely.

In Wayne Rooney they have one of the best strikers in the league and he will be keen to add to his 10 goals, while Dmitar Berbatov and Michael Owen will be waiting in the wings.

Owen loves playing against West Ham. He scored in both games for Newcastle last term, and who could forget his hat-trick at Upton Park in 2005?

Have West Ham got a chance of springing an upset? There is always a possibility, especially as the team seems to be full of goals.

But without Cole and without Upson it looks to be too big a task for the Hammers and United's class should tell in the end.

POSSIBle team: Kuszczak, Evra, Vidic, Neville, Brown, Fletcher, Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Berbatov, Rooney.

Prediction:

West Ham 1 Man United 3

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