West Ham United-Cardiff City Preview

TOM BENNETT (STATS European Football Writer)
The Associated Press

Two teams struggling at the wrong end of the Premier League meet in the Welsh capital on Saturday, when Cardiff City host West Ham United.

Between them, Cardiff (4-6-10) and West Ham (3-6-11) have picked up just seven points in 14 games since the start of December, leaving both heavily in the relegation mix in the second half of the season.

Sam Allardyce's West Ham have been in terrible form over recent weeks, conceding 11 goals in their last four Premier League games and picking up just one point in those matches. However, the Hammers' cup form has been even worse, with a weakened lineup thrashed 5-0 by Championship side Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup last weekend before a 6-0 humiliation against Manchester City in the League Cup first-leg semifinal Wednesday.

"You either come out fighting or you sink and die," said Allardyce in response to the City defeat. "We have got to be man enough to take it on the chin and be determined enough to show people that what they think at this particular moment in time is wrong.

"There are times when it is good and there are times when it is not so good. You have to accept that when it is not so good you have to draw on your strengths and experience to guide the players through the difficult time you are facing. Picking them up and getting them ready for the next game is my job. At the end of the day, we cannot keep walking around with our heads down and doom and gloom."

Saturday will be Ole Gunner Solskjaer's first Premier League game in charge of Cardiff since taking over for the sacked Malky Mackay. However, the former Manchester United player started his new job with an encouraging FA Cup win over Newcastle last weekend, and he has already strengthened the squad with the acquisition of Norwegian midfielder Magnus Wolff Eikrem.

"I've known Magnus for many years," said Solskjaer, who worked with the 'quarter-back' at the Manchester United academy before linking up with him again at his previous coaching stop in Molde. "I feel lucky to get to sign him again for Cardiff City for a reasonable price. I see this as money well spent.

"He's a playmaker, someone who likes to get on the ball and can see a pass. He's technically very good, including set pieces, and has great vision. Magnus will add a lot to Cardiff."

The hosts have injury doubts over Jordan Mutch (hamstring), Kevin Theophile-Catherine (knee) and Craig Bellamy (knee). West Ham are without Winston Reid (ankle) and Andy Carroll (ankle), while Ricardo vaz Te (shoulder), James Collins (calf) and James Tomkins are doubts.

These teams have already met twice this season, with West Ham winning both times. The Hammers opened their season with a 2-0 league win over the Bluebirds, while they also knocked Cardiff out of the League Cup with a 3-2 win at Upton Park in September.

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