Glenn roeder, the West Ham manager, will let Jermain Defoe loose on Chelsea from the kick-off in tonight's FA Cup fourth-round replay at Upton Park.
The 19-year-old, usually a Hammers substitute, will stand in for the suspended Paolo Di Canio and attempt to impress the England coach Sven Goran Eriksson. Defoe is being tipped for possible inclusion in Eriksson's World Cup squad, and Roeder believes that he will revel in the big-match atmosphere against Chelsea.
The manager, who is expected to put pen to paper on his three-year contract extension after the weekend, said: "We're without Paolo and Michael Carrick, but I'm sure that whoever we put out will get wrapped up in the atmosphere and put on a performance that will be good enough.
"Jermain is really looking forward to the game and it's a great opportunity for him to be playing against the likes of John Terry and Marcel Desailly. It will be a great experience for him."
Di Canio's three-match ban was handed out for his red-card offence of stamping on Jody Morris in last month's 5-1 Premiership drubbing at Stamford Bridge. Since then, the Hammers have returned to west London to claim a 1-1 draw and earn tonight's replay which could end with the Upton Park club toasting a place in the fifth round.
Roeder is relieved that the drawn-out possible transfer of Di Canio to Manchester United – now halted – is no longer dominating the build-up to any Hammers fixture. "Paolo's now suspended for three games," he said. "As he showed when he played well [against Blackburn] on Saturday, he's completely focused on what we have got to do in the rest of the games. Every game is different, but all the players [tonight] know a lot about each other so it's a question of our concentration being good on the night and sticking at it."
The manager has also revealed that he could move for loan signings as he battles to cement the Hammers' top-flight status. The club have established a six-point cushion above the drop zone and Roeder is determined to build on that position and prevent any relegation worries creeping into Upton Park. "I'm sure we won't be spending any more money this year as the transfer kitty has been used up," he said. "However, you always keep your options open as far as loans are concerned."
The veteran defender Nigel Winterburn, who faces a battle with the new signing Vladimir Labant for the left-back berth tonight, has urged West Ham to adopt a physical approach. "We know they [Chelsea] are a fantastic team and are not taking anything for granted because that would be disrespectful," he said. "We have to have a go at them to see if we can ruffle them up a bit and get through to the next round."
While Di Canio's absence and Carrick's six-week lay-off after a hernia operation is the bad news for the Hammers, Roeder has been buoyed by the doctor's verdict that Frédéric Kanouté is fit. The striker had three stitches near his eye following a bruising challenge in Saturday's 2-0 victory against Blackburn, but has been given the all-clear. However, there is a selection doubt hanging over Trevor Sinclair. The midfielder felt pain in his shin after having nine stitches and must now prove his fitness.
Gianfranco Zola is looking to regain a starting role tonight for Chelsea. With Celestine Babayaro away on international duty and Mario Melchiot suspended, Albert Ferrer will contest the right-back spot with the fit-again William Gallas, while Desailly is expected to play despite a slight knock.
Zola has 16 months left on his contract but has so far given out conflicting signals about whether he intends to carry on past the end of this season. He has admitted that he is "not sure" whether he wants to continue, but has also insisted it will be a case of whether his hunger for the game is as strong as ever in a couple of months' time.Reuse content