West Ham United’s February fixture programme unusually started with the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup and this meant that the fifth round was pushed back to March. They face a second trip of the season to St Mary’s to face Southampton tonight in an all Premier League tie.
The Hammers are getting used to coming up against fellow top-flight opponents in domestic cup competitions this campaign as the Saints are the fifth different side that they have met on more than two occasions, having faced both Manchester clubs and Tottenham Hotspur in the Carabao Cup, plus disposing of Leeds United in the third round.
Ralph Hasenhüttl’s men have had the best of the meetings between the two sides this season, as they held the Irons to a goalless draw here back in September, before narrowly beating the East Londoners 3-2 in the reverse fixture on Boxing Day.
David Moyes’ team will hope for better luck this time around, as defeat at this stage last campaign saw their cup journey end after losing 1-0 at Manchester United in extra-time. They will be hoping to progress to the quarter-finals for the first time since 2016.
Having said that, tonight’s visitors were nearly victims of a major shock in the fourth round against National League North side Kidderminster Harriers, only for a late Declan Rice equaliser to take the match to extra-time and then they eventually saw themselves through, thanks to an effort from Jarrod Bowen. The visitors will just be hoping that they go through and they can finish the job off in ninety minutes.
The home side have had a favourable passage to this stage too, as they have overcome lower league opponents on both occasions, winning away at Swansea City, albeit having to go to extra-time in round three, before needing to go through it all again here in order to beat Coventry City to set up this tie.
This will be a third home game in succession for the Saints and they will be the fresher of the two sides going into the match, as they have had two extra-days to prepare. Having said that, both teams picked up decent results last time out. Hasenhüttl’s men beat newly-promoted Norwich City on Friday, while the Hammers overcame the challenge of Wolverhampton Wanderers just three days ago.
Alphonse Areola celebrated his birthday on Sunday along with Tomáš Souček. The Paris Saint-Germain loanee is expected to take the place of Łukasz Fabiański in goal.
Manuel Lanzini was preferred to Saïd Benrahma for Sunday’s match but both could start in midfield here, while Mark Noble and Alex Král will also be in consideration to feature in the starting line-up.
Issa Diop and Nikola Vlašić were both introduced by Moyes late on in the victory against Bruno Lage’s side and both are looking to start on the South Coast.
Ben Johnson was back in action at the weekend and he will be hoping to retain his place. Andriy Yarmolenko has now returned to training following time off, due to the current situation in his home country of Ukraine but it is as yet unknown whether he will feature.
Due to FA Cup rules, nine substitutes can be named on the bench so Moyes will more than likely include some of the club’s youngsters in the matchday squad.
The match is a 7:30pm kick-off and just like the previous two ties for West Ham in this year’s competition, the match has again been selected for live television coverage. It will be available via the BBC Red Button from 7:20pm. The referee is Andre Marriner.