Physical battles at both ends of the pitch will decide Bolton v West Ham
Consistent Bolton may have one eye on Wembley
Often there or thereabouts at the wrong end of the table around this time of year, Bolton under Owen Coyle can afford too look up rather than down, safe in the knowledge that barring a complete collapse, they will be playing Premier League football next season.
The Trotters are eighth, already reaching the much-publicised 40-point mark and have got there by gaining success against those around them in the table.
They may have lost their last two matches, but two solid months when they beat Fulham, Wigan, Everton and Aston Villa proves they are a team who know how to win key matches.
They may have only won twice on their travels this season, but eight wins at the Reebok Stadium have given Bolton a solid foundation for success and in Coyle, they clearly have one of the most talented up and coming managers in the country.
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He has taken Wanderers to a Wembley FA Cup semi-final in his first full season, but last weekend’s defeat against struggling Birmingham might indicate the Trotters focus is not wholly on their league matches.
“I have tried to make sure the FA Cup semi-final is not on the players’ minds,” said Coyle.
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“Like every other team, we value points and I want to continue the progress that we have made this year.”
He has only been in charge for 14 months, but Coyle has managed to mould a team full of consistent performers, who although may not be big-name stars are more than capable of competing among the best in the division.
Zat Knight had played every minute of every game up until his injury last month, but Coyle brought in defensive reinforcement David Wheater, a shrewd signing at around �3million.
He and centre half partner and England international Gary Cahill are a solid partnership and are ably backed up by Jussi J��skel�inen, one of the countries more impressive goalkeepers over the past few years.
Losing the engine and creativity of Stuart Holden has been a major blow to Bolton, while the added absence of Mark Davies, who is a hugely underrated performer, will hurt the hosts.
Kevin Davies is a powerful target man and with the talented duo of Johan Elmander and Daniel Sturridge in support, there are plenty of attacking outlets for Bolton.
Physical battles at both ends of the pitch are more than likely to decide the game with Cahill up against Carlton Cole and Davies facing Matthew Upson.
Davies usually dominates the Hammers and has been a thorn in their side over the years. As their focal point, negating his threat will be vital.
Injuries in the centre of the park have weakened Bolton and with the Hammers particularly strong in that area, its an area West Ham should use to try and dominate the encounter