Can 'Appy's men defeat the 'ammers?

Pompey will be looking to climb the league table with a win over promotion chasing West Ham at Fratton Park tomorrow.

Team News

Ricardo Rocha and Luke Varney won't play according to Michael Appleton, who has ruled them out with a calf and knee injury respectively. Tal Ben-Haim may return to the side at full back to take on his former club.

Matt Taylor might miss out on a return to Fratton Park as he has a calf problem but Papa Bouba Diop and Frederic Piquionne may face their former employers.

Guy Demel looks set to miss out with a thigh injury but Sam Allardyce is likely to restore Rob Green, James Tomkins and Kevin Nolan to his starting line-up after they missed their cup defeat at Hillsborough last Sunday.

The Match

Because of West Brom's injury crisis Joe Mattock's loan has been put on hold but the worse news is that Pompey have missed out on transfer targets such as Chris Wood (now at Bristol City) due to the one-in, one-out transfer policy authorised by the Football League.

Until the ownership situation is sorted, Michael Appleton is going to have to make do with what he has got but the squad he has really isn't that bad. It's good to see the media call us "mid-table Portsmouth" rather than "relegation strugglers Portsmouth", that's for sure.

Speaking of squads that really aren't that bad, West Ham's is probably the best in the division and it's surprising that they haven't overtaken our floundering friends down the road at the top of the table by now.

This can be attributed to a recent poor run of form which has seen the Hammers win only two of their last six games and they were also beaten by Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup last week.

But before we get ahead of ourselves and think that this might be easy due to our good home record it's worth pointing out that West Ham have the best away record in the division as well as the best defence away from Upton Park, when Pompey put three past them earlier in the season and still lost.

However, the way our team played against Chelsea has filled me with confidence going into this one despite the result and I think there is enough fight in our midfield to stifle the likes of Kevin Nolan and Mark Noble.

Marko Futacs should be a handful for any defence at Championship level and so I wouldn't be surprised to see him score for the third league game in a row too.

But it's important that Rocha recovers from his injury in time for the match because he is our most important defender. It was no surprise to see our defence crumble like it did when he limped off last Sunday.

On a final note, I've noticed that a few of our fans say that they won't be too bothered if we lose tomorrow because West Ham might "overtake the Scum" - but that's nonsense.

Defeat tomorrow may see Pompey dragged back into the mire at the bottom and given that January could still hold a nasty surprise or two in store then it's vital Pompey claim as many points as they can before the end of the month.

Predicted Starting Line-Ups

Pompey

GK: Stephen HENDERSON

RB: Greg HALFORD

CB: Jason PEARCE

CB: Aaron MOKOENA

LB: Tal BEN-HAIM

RM: Liam LAWRENCE

CM: Hayden MULLINS

CM: David NORRIS

LM: Erik HUSEKLEPP

SS: Dave KITSON

CF: Marko FUTACS

West Ham

GK: Robert GREEN

RB: Jack COLLISON

CB: James TOMKINS

CB: Winston REID

LB: George McCARTNEY

RM: Mark NOBLE

CM: Papa BOUBA DIOP

CM: Kevin NOLAN

LM: Julien FAUBERT

CF: Sam BALDOCK

CF: Carlton COLE

Last Time: Portsmouth 1 West Ham United 1 (Premier League - 26/01/2010)

After a poor first half which saw Asmir Begovic make two outstanding saves to keep the scores level, the Irons took the lead at the start of the second half when Matthew Upson chested in a corner kick.

Danny Webber then came off the bench to slot past Rob Green for the equaliser as the spoils were shared between Gianfranco Zola's and Avram Grant's men.

My Prediction

We're in good form but we are playing what I believe to be the best team in the league and so I think it'll be an entertaining draw. What price one of the Pompey old boys finding the back of the net tomorrow?

Portsmouth 1 West Ham United 1