West Ham manager Slaven Bilic has no intention of fielding a weakened side in Sunday’s FA Cup fifth-round tie at Blackburn Rovers despite having several injury concerns.
The Hammers are looking to reach the quarter-final of the world’s oldest cup competition for the first time since 2010-11 and a trip to the Championship side presents a great opportunity to make the last eight.
Bilic has enjoyed a fine debut campaign in the West Ham hot seat and they are just seven points adrift of the Premier League’s top four with 12 matches remaining.
With West Ham going well in the league, the Croatian may have been tempted to rest several of his stars at Ewood Park – particularly given he is shorn of the likes of Andy Carroll (adductor), Enner Valencia (ankle), James Tomkins (calf), Winston Reid and Joey O’Brien (both hamstring) to injury.
But Bilic intends to put out his best XI in a competition he considers the greatest in the world.
“We don’t need to rest players, we will play our strongest team because it is an important game and we want to win,” he said.
“Blackburn are a huge club. When I played, they were massive in England and that wasn’t so long ago. It will be a massive test for us.
“And the FA Cup should remain as the greatest cup competition, it is fantastic. We should do whatever necessary to keep it special.”
West Ham midfielder Pedro Obiang added: “I have not had the chance to play at Wembley and have only seen it on television so I would love the chance to play there.
“I came to England with the Spain Under-18 team but didn’t get the chance to play there. We all travelled to London but unfortunately I didn’t play.”
Blackburn have found the going tough in the second tier this season and Paul Lambert’s side are 18th – just eight points above the drop zone.
Goals have been the biggest problem for the Lancashire club and their return of 28 represents the third-lowest in the Championship.
A 3-0 win over Fulham last time out has lifted the mood, though, and defender Shane Duffy says Blackburn – who beat Swansea City and Stoke City in last season’s competition – can take confidence into the West Ham clash.
“They are a good team but this is the FA Cup, we’ve got a bit of confidence after the win over Fulham and we can go and take it out there to show West Ham how good we are,” he told the club’s official website.
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