Slaven Bilic staying cautious but admits top-four finish is now a realistic goal
Published 04/03/2016 | 13:01
West Ham boss Slaven Bilic insists a top-four finish in the Barclays Premier League is now a realistic ambition.
A 1-0 victory over Tottenham on Wednesday has left the sixth-placed Hammers just one point adrift of the Champions League spots with Saturday's visit to Everton the first of their remaining 10 matches this season.
Bilic admits the club's position in the table justifies talk of claiming a coveted berth in the top four, but is also cautious over setting his sights too high.
"It is realistic now. We are one point behind with 10 games to go so we have a chance," Bilic said.
"But it's so tight and there are still a lot of games to go. Of course we are looking above us because we are very close to those places.
"We are also looking below us because there are teams who are queuing up. The gap is not big between us and ninth or 10th in the table."
The precious victory over London rivals Tottenham, whose title hopes were dented in the process, did not come without cost as defender James Collins is set to miss the next three games with a hamstring injury.
"Losing James is a big blow for us. He's been marvellous all season. He's a great player and a great presence," Bilic said.
"On Thursday it didn't look that bad but unless something very positive happens, he'll miss three games. He's being scanned, but it looks like he'll be back after the next international break."
Michail Antonio's seventh-minute header sealed a memorable win at Upton Park and Bilic's only regret is that there is not more time to savour the moment.
"Beating Tottenham was great, but the bad thing was that we couldn't enjoy it, not even for a few days because we have another game so quickly," Bilic said.
"Sometimes after those wins you'd prefer to have an international break so that you can enjoy it for a week at least.
"We play Everton so we have to put it to bed, but that result has given everyone at the club confidence.
"Everton are amazing on paper and are one of the best teams in the league with so much quality. For me it's a surprise they have won only four home games this season."
Bilic continues to bang the England drum for Hammers captain Mark Noble and defender Aaron Cresswell, who he believes should be included in Roy Hodgson's squad for Euro 2016 this summer.
"For six years I was a manager of a really good national team and people were telling me this and that," Bilic said.
"I didn't mind that, but it looks like from the outside like I'm giving lessons to the national team manager.
"But Mark Noble is having a fantastic season and I haven't seen many midfielders perform so consistently at such a high level.
"I said a couple of months ago that Noble and Aaron Cresswell should be mentioned, not just in the papers, because they deserve it. Mark should be in and also Cresswell."