With just under a month until the start of the Premier League season, West Ham finally kick off their first pre-season fixture ahead of the 2017/18 campaign in Austria this evening.
The Hammers have been in Austria for nearly a week and have been undergoing gruelling double sessions to get them back into the swing of things as the pre-season gets a bit busier.
Slaven Bilic’s side will take on Fulham in three days time in their second friendly of the tour before heading off to Germany, where football.london will be joining them.
But, with the first game on the horizon in Bad Waltersdorf this evening, what can we expect to see tonight? Here’s a few things to keep an eye on.
Toni Martinez, Declan Rice, Reece Burke, Josh Cullen, Nathan Holland and Moses Makasi are all in the matchday squad. They are coming up against a second string Sturm Graz side so expect the youngsters to get some good minutes under their belts.
While it may not demonstrate much about what the lads can do against Premier League teams, it will give us a chance to see how they have coped with a first team environment, with a first team mentality, with Slaven Bilic watching on from the sidelines.
Martinez will likely get serous minutes up front as it’s only him and Ashley Fletcher as the recognised strikers. Could we see 45 minutes for both?
Pre-season is a time to tinker and get things right for the start of the season but if Slaven Bilic plays with the three centre halves formation he deployed at the end of the last campaign, it’ll be a big giveaway.
Winston Reid will miss the game so Angelo Ogbonna will likely step in, although we could see Declan Rice get the start back there as well.
It means one up top, which will likely be 45 minutes for Fletcher and the other 45 for Martinez.
If Bilic plays 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1, both strikers will probably play and Andre Ayew and Manuel Lanzini get 45 minutes each playing off them.
Pablo Zabaleta is an experienced campaigner who has won Premier League titles and doesn’t take any nonsense.
Alongside Mark Noble, the new signing will be the vocal forefront of the team and he demands absolutely 100% from his team and from the off, we expect Zabaleta to be key at right back.
Other players, particularly the younger ones, will no doubt have taken influence from the Argentine defender and it’ll be interesting to see if it has made a difference.
Have the double sessions paid off?
New physio Gary Lewin will be watching closely as the players take to the pitch for the first time in this season after pulling gruelling double training sessions on a few of the days of camp so far.
The players were given an afternoon off on Sunday but it’s been very intense before that and Lewin will be keeping a close eye on any injuries, knocks and fitness levels.
Mainly after the game, Lewin will certainly be analysing how the Hammers have coped and whether they might need to tone down the double sessions or keep ploughing on.