Can West Ham end Tottenham’s title hopes tonight?
PUBLISHED: 07:31 05 May 2017
PA Wire/PA Images
Hammers look for a big night at the London Stadium against Spurs
West Ham go into their showdown with great rivals Tottenham still searching for a point to secure their safety tonight (Friday).
But there is the added incentive that they can end Spurs run of nine Premier League wins on the trot – and their title challenge.
And manager Slaven Bilic can’t wait for the big kick-off.
“Do you need an extra motivation when you are playing against Tottenham?” asked Bilic.
“I remember last season’s game at Upton Park when we beat them 1-0 – it was one of the most electric atmospheres.
“We also played at White Hart Lane this season and were leading up until the last couple of minutes. It is a big game for our supporters.
“A derby under the lights which makes it extra special and we are ready for it.”
Arthur Masuaku and Andy Carroll are big doubts for the game with Aaron Cresswell likely to come in at left wing-back, while Jonathan Calleri is set to continue as the lone striker, despite his recent difficulties in front of goal.
Skipper Mark Noble, who was only a substitute at Stoke last weekend, may well be needed to start for a derby clash as big as this one. He missed the game at Spurs through suspension.
Bilic is certainly looking forward to the clash with their neighbours.
“Of course I am excited,” he said. “This game reminds me a little bit of the Manchester United game last season.
“A big night under the lights, Tottenham, both teams need points and if you are a sportsman, these are the games that you can’t wait for.”
So how do you beat a team in such great form? Bilic has drawn some heart from Tottenham’s recent away games, despite the fact they won them.
“We are positive, we are four unbeaten, three clean sheets in four games, while their last two away performances give us hope,” he said.
“Clean sheets don’t only give confidence to the back three, but to the whole team, it is great to come into the match with that record.
“Now we know what we have to do as individuals and as a team to get another one.”
Bilic is not kidding himself, though. He knows just how tough it is going to be against a team 38 points above them in the table.
“For me, they are the club that is playing the best football,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, I think Chelsea well deserve to be on top as they didn’t have a hole in their season, but Spurs are playing the best football.
“We have to stay focused and compact and concentrate for the whole 90 minutes, that is the key.
“But you also have to have something up front to take advantage of any mistakes they might make.”
That could be a big problem for Bilic. Tottenham’s last league defeat came at Liverpool in February when a bad mistake by Eric Dier was punished, but whether the Hammers have the ammunition to do something similar has to be in question.
Back in the day, Bilic himself began his Hammers career in a win against Tottenham and he knows the importance of tonight’s clash.
“All Premier League games are tough, but this has an extra bit,” he said. “I remember the game because it was my debut and we won. It is the biggest game for West Ham. It is special and I am sure the game is going to be like that.”
Kick-off tonight is at 8pm.