Defensive pair have Pellegrini’s backing as West Ham prepare to face Kane

Manuel Pellegrini has backed his fledgling central defence to deal with the threat of Harry Kane when West Ham host Tottenham.

Summer signings Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena have impressed for the Hammers this season despite having never previously played in the Premier League.

Frenchman Diop, 21, scored an own-goal on his debut against Arsenal but has since gone on to form a solid partnership with 27-year-old Paraguayan Balbuena.

The duo face arguably their biggest test of the season so far when England striker Kane and Spurs head to the London Stadium on Saturday.

Hammers boss Pellegrini said: “I think both of them are improving. Maybe Fabian has more experience, but Issa Diop is a very good player.

“He must continue improving in every game that he plays. He is a player who is always asking and learning. He has a lot of desire to be a good centre-back.

“Am I surprised they settled in so quickly? Well, we have played already eight games, so it is not so quickly.

“I think that professional players like Fabian don’t need so many games when they are good players.

“I don’t think Fabian thought very much about playing in a different league, from the beginning I was happy with his performances and we work every day of the week on how the other teams play, so it is not so strange for me.

“Issa played a complete season in the French league, he is not a player with just four or five games as a professional. He was also captain at Toulouse.

“I don’t think they both have a duel against Kane. West Ham have a duel against Tottenham.

“We cannot just play with two centre-backs, we need the full-backs, the wingers, the goalkeeper, the defensive system that involves all the players.  After that you have the personal duels.”

West Ham will also come up against English football’s newest ‘hardman’, Eric Dier, whose crunching tackle on Spain’s Sergio Ramos on Monday won him a host of new admirers

“Football is football, and different actions happen during the games,” added Pellegrini.

“I don’t think it is a good idea to continue talking about the one action of Dier, qualifying him as a player in that sense.

“He is a very good young player and he is improving every time he plays.”

- Press Association

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