West Ham boss upbeat over tough EPL run-in

LONDON • Slaven Bilic has said that West Ham should worship their status as surprise contenders for a place in the top four of the Premier League and believes his team can cope with the pressure of challenging for Champions League qualification.

The Hammers will go fourth for at least 24 hours if they complete their first league double over outgoing champions Chelsea since the 2002-03 season, by winning at Stamford Bridge today.

However, Bilic, who confirmed yesterday his interest in signing Borussia Moenchengladbach's Havard Nordtveit on a free transfer, is relaxed about the prospect of an intense run-in.

"Psychologically it is just a football game, what we have played before," the manager said. "But it is definitely better to be in this situation than to be in the relegation battle or to be in the middle of the table, secure but without those positives. This is a situation we should worship. We should be in this situation every year."

What West Ham lack is the know-how of the teams around them. Yet Bilic, whose side will earn an FA Cup semi-final against Everton if they win their quarter-final replay against Manchester United at Upton Park next month, is not concerned.

  • ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

  • TODAY

    Everton v Arsenal Ch102 & Ch227, 8.45pm

    Chelsea v West Ham Ch103 & Ch228, 10.55pm

    Watford v Stoke Ch104 & Ch229, 10.55pm

    West Brom v Norwich Ch105 & Ch230, 10.55pm

    Crystal Palace v Leicester Ch102 & Ch227, 11pm

    Swansea v Aston Villa Ch102 & Ch227, tomorrow, 1.30am

    TOMORROW

    Southampton v Liverpool Ch103 & Ch228, 9.25pm

    Newcastle v Sunderland Ch102 & Ch227, 9.30pm

    Tottenham v Bournemouth Ch103 & Ch228, 11.55pm

    Man City v Man United Ch102 & Ch227, Monday, midnight

"We are not talking about it, we are just approaching it. We don't put the Premier League table in our canteen or restaurant - what if they win, what if they draw, what if this. It is routine business, we are training, we have a game on Saturday and after that we have the international break.

"The problem would be if we are down - 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th - they are thinking about it. That is the chip on the shoulder, that is the pressure, that is the burden. This is a bonus, this is great."

It is a measure of how successful West Ham's season has been that Chelsea will be cast in the supporting role today.

The Blues' sole ambition is to improve on their current standing in 10th and challenge for a berth in next season's Europa League.

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CHELSEA V WEST HAM

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2016, with the headline 'West Ham boss upbeat over tough EPL run-in'. Print Edition | Subscribe