West Ham manager Sam Allardyce has told his players Tuesday night's Capital One Cup tie against Crewe represents a big opportunity to nail down a regular first-team spot.
The Hammers' go into the second-round meeting on the back of a comprehensive 3-0 Barclays Premier League defeat at Swansea. The likes of Alou Diarra and Modibo Maiga have had to make do with limited game time so far this campaign, but manager Allardyce believes the cup tie is the perfect chance for them to force their way into the first XI.
He said: "The players who are disappointed about not playing get the opportunity to play in a very good competition. It tells me where they are and are they staking a claim to be playing as early as Fulham next week. They can go and make a statement to me. I want players to show me they should be playing."
The former Bolton and Newcastle boss guided the Hammers to play-off glory last season, and with the new £3billion TV rights deal set to kick in from the start of next season, retaining top-flight status has arguably never been so important.
While the League Cup represents the most realistic chance of winning silverware for the majority of Premier League clubs, its status within the domestic season has long been on the slide with clubs using the competition to rotate their squads.
Allardyce admits Premier League survival is his major goal, but plans to field a strong side.
He said: "My approach is to field a group of players that will be hugely experienced on Tuesday and that will be a great opportunity for some of the players who haven't had as many minutes on the pitch.
"We have new signings, like Maiga, like Diarra, that we can give a game to. There is Nicky Maynard too, Ricardo Vaz Te, Matt Taylor. We'll have an experienced squad with a couple of younger players and it should be enough to beat Crewe and get us into the next round."
Allardyce could decide to again select new signing Matt Jarvis after handing the former Wolves man a debut against Swansea.
But defender James Collins, who had a torrid time at the Liberty Stadium, is set to be rested as he continues to manage a groin problem.
- Alou Diarra
- Barclays Premier League