Hammers can’t wait for Carling semi-final

West Ham go into Tuesday night’s Carling Cup semi-final first leg looking for a healthy lead to take to St Andrews.

WEST HAM boss Avram Grant insists his players can’t wait for their Carling Cup semi-final showdown with Birmingham City at Upton Park on Tuesday night.

Both teams fielded weakened teams on Saturday as they booked their places in the fourth round of the FA Cup, but they will be back at full strength for Tuesday’s first leg which is expected to be played in front of a full house at the Boleyn Ground.

For the Hammers owners, David Grant and David Sullivan, it will be especially poignant as they come up against the club they owned for 18 years.

And Grant is well aware of the fact.

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“In their way, maybe the owners have mentioned how much they would like to win this game – there is a way to say things at West Ham,” smiled the Hammers boss.

“I know that it is important for them, but let us presume that it is not Birmingham we are playing. They want to be in the final, they are very happy to be in the semi-final and I saw their faces and the faces of the supporters after we beat Manchester United.

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“To be in the semi-final of a competition is good, to be in the final would be better.”

Birmingham certainly seemed to have had an easier route than the Hammers to reach the semi-final.

They sneaked past Rochdale 3-2 in round two, before beating MK Dons 3-1 and then luckily overcome Brentford in the last 16 on penalties after equalising two minutes into injury time for a 1-1 draw.

They did beat deadly rivals Aston Villa 2-1 in the quarter-final at St Andrews, but Grant feels that his side has had to work harder for their place.

“I think it would be fair if we made the final because we had a very tough way to get to this stage,” said Grant.

“Sunderland away, Stoke at home and Manchester United at home are very difficult games.”

West Ham will look to take a lead to the Midlands for the second leg, but it is likely to be a tight match at Upton Park on Tuesday.

Ideally, both he and David Gold would like the tie wrapped up before they go to St Andrews, especially as Gold’s relationship with the current Birmingham board is somewhat strained.

Grant though has a solution: “Maybe it would be good to win it in the first leg, but he can see it from his helicopter,” laughed the manager. “He can hover over the ground!

“What I can tell you though is about the players. They are waiting for this game, they want to be in the final and they will be giving everything.”

Prediction: West Ham 2 Birmingham City 2

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