Injury-hit West Ham travel to Southampton on Sunday desperate to improve their poor Premier League away record under manager Sam Allardyce.
The London club have won only one of their last 15 league games away from Upton Park, losing 10 of them, a statistic that makes last season’s 10th-place finish all the more remarkable.
Allardyce’s men have started the new campaign with one win, one draw and one defeat in the Premier League, with a 1-0 loss at home to Stoke City prior to the international break proving a source of frustration for the former Newcastle United and Bolton Wanderers boss.
“It has been a long two weeks,” said Allardyce prior to the trip to St Mary’s.
“I think since I’ve been here it’s the first game I’ve ever lost before an international break – if memory serves.
“You always want to go into an international break with a positive result. We didn’t get it.”
If West Ham are to end their struggles on their travels, they will have to snap a four-game winless streak at Southampton, and without a string of first-team players.
George McCartney (knee), Andy Carroll (foot), Stewart Downing (leg) and Joe Cole (hamstring) are all out of action and new signing Mladen Petric is not match fit, although the club’s international contingent returned unscathed from national team duty.
Allardyce, who is closing in on a century of games in charge of West Ham, added: “All our international players are back free from injury, so we look forward to the game and I’m looking forward to a positive performance from the players.”
Mark Noble’s likely inclusion in the starting XI will cause alarm among Southampton fans, as the midfielder has scored three goals in the last three league meetings with the south-coast side.
Southampton’s Premier League record in 2013-14 mirrors that of West Ham as the two sides sit level on four points, with the latter two places higher in the table by virtue of a better goal difference.
Their talisman, Rickie Lambert, returns to club football after helping England claim four points from two FIFA World Cup qualifiers over the course of the last week.
Lambert marked his first international start with a goal in the 4-0 win over Moldova to take his tally for the season to three for club and country before featuring in the 0-0 draw with Ukraine.
The 31-year-old will be expected to spearhead the Southampton attack against a side that manager Mauricio Pochettino is particularly wary of.
“West Ham are a physically strong team,” he said. “They play in a determined and in a particular way that suits them.”
Pochettino’s main injury concern ahead of the clash centres around defender Danny Fox, who twisted his ankle in midweek.
Fox made his first Premier League start of the season in the 1-0 defeat at Norwich City a fortnight ago but is battling to be fit.