West Ham supporters have been slightly despondent in the Transfer Tavern this week after seeing their side throw away a two-goal lead to end up drawing 2-2 with the Premier League’s bottom club Crystal Palace last time out.
Slaven Bilic’s men went into their clash at Selhurst Park off the back of an impressive 3-2 victory over Tottenham in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup, and they looked on course for consecutive wins as Javier Hernandez and Andre Ayew gave them a two-goal cushion at half time. However, the Hammers were to be denied a third league success of the campaign as a Luka Milivojevic penalty and a fine Wilfried Zaha strike secured a 2-2 draw for the hosts, but it wasn’t enough to move Roy Hodgson’s side off the foot of the Premier League table.
And although Palace deserve great credit for fighting back, several of our resident West Ham fans were fuming with their team for allowing them back into the contest, and failing to beat the Eagles has only served to increase the pressure on manager Bilic ahead of Saturday’s game against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
And with the Croat facing a defensive crisis, what with Pablo Zabaleta suspended and the likes of James Collins, Sam Byram, and Jose Fonte out injured, the 49-year-old must feel that things are conspiring against him in his bid to keep his job at the London Stadium.
Nonetheless, injuries to first teamers always provides an opportunity for someone on the peripheries to stake a claim for a regular spot, and given Fonte started their clash at Palace last weekend, Bilic must look to replace the Portugal international with 18-year-old Declan Rice against the Merseyside giants on Saturday.
The Englishman only made his senior debut for the club back in August but has expressed a maturity beyond his years whenever he has been on the pitch, and was perhaps a tough unfortunate not to warrant a starting berth against Palace last weekend.
And that’s because the defender was excellent against Spurs just a few days previous, and demonstrating that level of composure and solidity against some of the most talented players in the country, on one of the biggest stages in world football, must be in the back of Bilic’s mind when selecting a side for Liverpool’s visit.
He handled the big occasion impressively, but more importantly, especially from Bilic’s point of view, is that Rice refused to let his head drop and continued to fight for the cause throughout the 90 minutes, despite things looking particularly bleak at half time when they were 2-0 down.
And the Croat will surely want players like that in his side as he himself fights to save his job.
Thus, the 18-year-old deserves a chance against Liverpool on Saturday, and given their current defensive issues, Bilic must look to give him a start at the London Stadium this weekend.
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