West Ham United could take a significant step forward in their pursuit for seventh place in the Premier League with a victory over struggling Cardiff City on Saturday.
The Hammers could move to within a point of both Wolverhampton Wanderers and Watford with a victory, with both sides facing challenging away days against Chelsea and Manchester City respectively.
However, a defeat to the Welsh outfit could see them fall a place and possibly fall seven points behind the duo and leave their aims of a seventh-placed finish looking slim.
But it appears Manuel Pellegrini has been handed a positive boost ahead of the trip to Wales as two of his key defensive men are in contention for what will be a tough encounter.
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Both Aaron Cresswell and Fabian Balbuena will be available for the clash with Cardiff on Saturday, according to the club’s official website.
The left-back has been able to recover from the kick to the head he received in the win against Newcastle United, whilst the Paraguay international has managed to recover from the knee injury that he suffered just before Christmas Day.
Having both defenders back in contention will come as a big blow for West Ham and their fans who travel to the Cardiff City Stadium as it will give the Hammers an encouraging boost ahead of the game.
Cresswell has been solid for the Irons on the left-hand side of defence and fans would have been fearing the worst when he had to be replaced by Arthur Masuaku during the first-half of the Newcastle match.
The Frenchman has attracted criticism for his performances this season from some fans on social media, with many in the game questioning what he brings to the team and would have been scared of having him in the line-up against a side that will treat the match as an ‘all-or-nothing’ contest.
Balbuena’s return will have also been a welcomed boost to the side as the Paraguay international appeared to have formed a solid partnership at the back with fellow new signing Issa Diop, becoming a vital duo for the Hammers.
However, having been out on the sidelines for just over two months could leave many questioning whether he will be able to return to his very best immediately, or whether he will be able to replace Angelo Ogbonna – who has stepped in remarkably well and has almost made the position his own in the South American’s absence.
West Ham fans, do you think Cresswell and Balbuena should both start against Cardiff on Saturday, or would you reintegrate them as the match goes on? Let us know your thoughts below by joining in with the discussion.