Early-round cup matches usually provide managers with an opportunity to hand chances to players who aren’t quite in their first team plans at that particular moment in time.
For West Ham United manager Manuel Pellegrini, he has plenty of players who fit that description heading into Tuesday night’s Carabao Cup clash with Newport County.
One man who is expected to play is centre back Fabian Balbuena. Reliable Hammers news source Claret & Hugh reported recently that the Paraguay international is expected to come back into the starting line up against the League Two outfit.
The 28-year-old surely needs a big performance at Rodney Parade, because otherwise he could face a long spell in Pellegrini’s bad books. He’s already been dropped by the manager once this season; he’s on thin ice.
Balbuena was part of the West Ham team who were thumped 5-0 by champions Manchester City in the Irons’ first game of the new season and hasn’t featured since.
Italian international Angelo Ogbonna is the man partnering star centre back Issa Diop at the heart of the defence, and he has acquitted himself fairly well, piling the pressure on Balbuena to put in a good showing on Tuesday.
When you compare how the two men have performed this term, albeit in a handful of games between them, it doesn’t make for good reading from Balbuena’s perspective.
As per WhoScored.com, Ogbonna has outperformed the former Corinthians man in every single major defensive statistical category. Yes, that’s largely due to Balbuena’s involvement in the City horror show, but it’s alarming for the latter nonetheless.
With that said, the Newport clash suddenly becomes very important for the 6ft 2in centre half [Source: Transfermarkt] – he must put in a good display or face the consequences.