London (AFP) – West Ham manager Slaven Bilic is under even more serious pressure after Ronald Koeman’s sacking by Everton on Monday but he will hope for a filip in Wednesday’s Last 16 League Cup action.
Media reports suggest that Bilic, who made his name as Croatian national coach, has been given two matches to salvage his job but a trip away to in-form Tottenham Hotspur is probably not the sort of challenge one would want as one of them.
Everton — who despite splashing out £140million ($185mn) on players in the close season lie third from bottom of the Premier League — begin life post Koeman by travelling to champions Chelsea.
Both may have to play their first teams in a competition which usually gives Premier League managers the chance to rest weary first choice players.
Indeed the League Cup would be bottom of priorities for most Premier League managers in terms of silverware or for some simply to survive in the elite to keep on reaping in the millions that membership offers.
However, for Bilic no such luxury can be afforded in that respect and facing a Tottenham side that put Liverpool to the sword 4-1 and firmly set aside the so-called Wembley jinx could not come at a worse time.
The charismatic Croatian is clearly feeling the weight of expectations as one poor season last term — which came close to costing him his job — has been followed by no sign of a return to the form that they showed in his first campaign.
“I’m the manager and I don’t want to run away from the fact that it’s my responsibility, and I take full responsibility,” he said.
Hammers Portuguese defender Jose Fonte said the players owed the fans a good performance.
“We have a game on Wednesday and we need to go and beat Spurs because we have to react, we have to bounce back,” Fonte told the club website.
Defeat by Spurs would not be a catastrophe for Bilic but a loss next weekend to bottom side Crystal Palace would more than likely seal his fater and make him the fourth managerial casualty of the season.
Whilst he waits nervously for Wednesday the greater part of the matches take place on Tuesday with the only all Premier League affair Swansea hosting holders Manchester United.
United’s manager Jose Mourinho will be looking for his players to show more fight after blasting them following the 2-1 defeat at Huddersfield.
Juan Mata, one of those players high up on Mourinho’s hit list and was replaced at half-time, issued a rallying cry to his team-mates on Monday.
“Now, it’s time to learn from mistakes and keep going, as we always do, showing that the team sticks together when things don’t go so well, which is when we need it most,” the Spaniard wrote on his blog.
United’s neighbours Manchester City host Championship leaders Wolves with the possibility that Sergio Aguero if given a run out could break Eric Brook’s all-time goalscoring record which has stood since 1939 — the Argentinian went level on 177 with a goal against Burnley on Saturday.
City manager Pep Guardiola indicated 29-year-old Aguero would start — although the team will largely be made up of reserves and youngsters — and he was not taking Wolves lightly.
“We deserve the respect of opponents when they look at us, when they watch us on TV, on the field, and say ‘that team makes a lot of good things’,” said Guardiola.
“That is all I want.”
The other clashes are tricky for the Premier League sides as they face in-form tier two outfits with Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace away trip to Bristol City and 2016 champions Leicester home to Leeds being two potential upsets.
Tuesday (kick-offs 1845GMT unless stated)
Arsenal v Norwich, Bournemouth v Middlesbrough, Bristol City v Crystal Palace, Leicester v Leeds, Manchester City v Wolves (1900), Swansea v Manchester United
Chelsea v Everton (1845), Tottenham v West Ham (1900)
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