Slaven Bilic targets Spurs scalp as West Ham look to banish threat of relegation
Slaven Bilic says West Ham are ready to finally banish the threat of relegation – while hammering a huge dent in Tottenham’s title hopes.
Spurs could go into the weekend just one point behind Premier League leaders Chelsea with victory at the London Stadium on Friday night.
But the Hammers still need a positive result to take themselves out of the equation at the foot of the table, and Bilic knows a win against their London rivals would be the perfect way to do it.
“This is a big match anyway,” said the West Ham boss. “It is a derby, whether you need the points or not, it’s a derby game against Spurs at our stadium.
“They need points, we need points, so it is a massive game for us and a massive game for them. We will try to get the points that will mathematically secure our status.
“You don’t need extra motivation when you play against Tottenham. Last season’s game at Upton Park, when we beat them 1-0, was one of the most electrifying atmospheres.
“It is a big game for us, a big game for the supporters, it is under the lights which is always a special one, and we are ready for it.”
Bilic has faced further speculation over his future this week, with one report claiming his job could hinge on the back-to-back home games against Spurs and Liverpool.
But he added: “It is not the time to talk about that. It is not about individuals, it is about the club. I am calm and totally focused on the game tomorrow.”
West Ham are desperate to finally christen their new stadium with a major scalp, having taken some thrashings from the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City this season.
But Bilic admits his side face a daunting task against the team he feels are playing the best football in the Premier League.
“I have nothing but praise for Chelsea, I have great respect for them to make the gap they have,” he added.
“Don’t get me wrong, Chelsea deserve to be on top, but Spurs are playing maybe the best football.
“Spurs have been in good form for the past couple of months and are playing good. But we have to be positive.
“We are four games unbeaten and have three clean sheets as well. Our form has improved and we are positive and optimistic.”
Bilic will hand Andy Carroll a late fitness test on the groin problem which has sidelined him for the last two matches, while fellow striker Diafra Sakho will miss the rest of the season with a back injury.
Meanwhile, Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino insists Kyle Walker’s focus has not wavered amid speculation the defender is unhappy at White Hart Lane.
Pochettino picked Kieran Trippier ahead of Walker for last weekend’s north London derby against Arsenal and the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea two weeks ago.
Walker, who is reportedly keen on a move to Manchester City, is in the squad to face West Ham and has trained as normal with the first team this week.
“All 21 players are focused to help achieve the things we want to achieve,” Pochettino said. “I am so calm. The players are calm. They know what happens inside.
“It’s important that the fans know that the players are calm and we will see at the end of the season whether the rumours are true or not.”
Asked about Walker’s absence against Arsenal and Chelsea, Pochettino said: “For me every game is big. Crystal Palace was big. Swansea was a big game.”
He continued: “When you have players that deserve to play and play, then all players feel an important part of the team.
“The rotation between Danny Rose and Ben Davies, or Kyle and Trippier, you can see their performances.
“It’s because we have good players in the squad that it affects their team-mates and makes them better.”
Walker is one of a number of players to have been linked with moves away from Tottenham but Pochettino said nothing will be decided until the summer.
“No decision until the end of the season about anything,” Pochettino said.
“I accept the business but please, I think our fans don’t care. It’s true that Tottenham are a trending topic in all the rumours – we are champions. In the last two seasons (for rumours) we are more than first.”
Rose is still not ready to return after three months out with a knee injury, but the full-back is expected to resume full training next week.