Club News

Mel expecting 'intense' Hammers

And boss says Brunt's role still up for debate as he assesses defensive options

PEPE Mel considers West Ham to already be safe from the drop – but still expects them to be all guns blazing in tomorrow’s Hawthorns encounter (ko 3pm).

The 12th-placed Hammers will arrive in the Black Country on 37 points, seven points above the bottom three with three games remaining.

And the Baggies boss is not expecting any favours from the familiar faces of United duo Adrian and Mohamed Diame, who he managed at Real Betis and Rayo Vallecano respectively.

“I really hope West Ham show less intensity but knowing Sam Allardyce I really don’t think that will be the case,” he said.

“Sam Allardyce is a winner and he will want to win the game so I am sure they will play with a deal of intensity and, for the first time in my life, I really do hope Adrian has a bad afternoon.”

Mel, who has already ruled out playing three centre-halves, admits he is still debating in his head who will play in the back-four, with Liam Ridgewell (knee) ruled out and Gareth McAuley (calf) a doubt.

“Defending against Andy Carroll is very difficult,” he added.

“We mentioned defending against Benteke when we played Aston Villa and what we’ve got to try to do is be united defensively and, whether it be Olsson, Lugano or Dawson who is defending against them, it’s important that we’re united.
“There are two ways to approach the game, either with Chris Brunt playing at left-back or Chris Brunt in his normal position.

“When I arrived here [Goran] Popov and [Markus] Rosenberg were players who weren’t really involved in the set-up.

“I have no problem with Popov. He’s a player who has a really professional attitude.

“But the fact is that he hasn’t played and, with three games to go, it would be crazy to put him back in.
“I will have to weigh things up and see what we win by putting Chris Brunt at left-back and what we would lose.
“There are a lot of options. There is Billy Jones and Steven Reid and we will have to choose the best option.

“We have to choose a team to go out and win and that involves putting out players who are physically and mentally prepared.”