West Ham face Accrington Stanley in the 3rd Round of the EFL Cup this week and it is a game that fans will view with some trepidation.
The Hammers' recent performances will have neutrals viewing the tie as an opportunity for a cup upset, and Stanley will certainly relish the chance to be the first team to visit the London Stadium in a domestic cup competition.
Regardless of the opposition and the team's current malaise however, supporters will once again hope to overcome their League Cup hoodoo. The club sit in 10th place in the all-time League Cup table with 108 wins from 209 matches since the tournament's inception in 1960/61. The nine teams above the Hammers have all won the competition at least once, leaving east London fans with another frustrating statistic to add to their list of woes.
The Hammers have twice got to a League Cup final; once in the 1965/66 season when they were beaten in a two-legged tie 5-3 by West Bromwich Albion and then in the 1980/81 campaign when they unluckily lost out 2-1 to a Kenny Dalglish led Liverpool in a replay.
It's at the semifinal stage where the Hammers' stats really stack up though. Seven last-four defeats read like a mini-history of shocking results. A 9-0 pasting by a rampant Manchester City in 2014 might be excused perhaps, but a 5-0 aggregate loss to Luton Town in 1989 and a 6-3 reversal to Oldham in 1990 are harder to stomach. Both Luton and Oldham were bigger teams than they are now perhaps, but the memories still gall.
Apart from the opportunity to wipe the memories away, there's been a feeling in recent seasons that the League Cup is a competition West Ham should really target. It will be disappointing if Slaven Bilic fails to take the competition seriously. It is the modern way that the early cup competition rounds are an excuse to give squad members a game, but there's a good argument for saying that the first team need all the practice that it can get too.
Cup goalkeeper and Irish international Darren Randolph is likely to get the nod and, considering Adrian's recent form, this may prove an advantage. Similarly, it will be good to see Reece Oxford given a chance in the centre of defence and the game should give Bilic the chance to try out another formation in midfield.
It's a difficult balancing act perhaps - the loss of a player to injury would bring its own criticisms - but there seems no reason why Bilic couldn't utilise star players like Dimitri Payet. The Frenchman has missed much of the early season and the squad generally, hopeful of a European run, should be big enough to cope.
West Ham have never met Accrington in competition before and there should be enough local interest to ensure a good atmosphere in Stratford. Hopefully, the extra class will ensure there is no cup upset, but anything that allows the manager to straighten out recent problems and give the team a confidence boost shouldn't be ignored either.