Friday 24 November 2017

Sakho relishing run of derbies

West Ham's Diafra Sakho is a fan of capital clashes
West Ham's Diafra Sakho is a fan of capital clashes

Diafra Sakho is looking forward to three more London derbies in the coming weeks, starting with the visit of Crystal Palace.

The Senegal striker tops West Ham's goalscoring charts and has already found the back of the net nine times in the Premier League since his summer arrival from Metz.

Having gone three games without a goal, Sakho scored to put the Hammers 2-0 up at Tottenham last weekend, only for Sam Allardyce to see his side concede two late goals and have to settle for a point.

The game at White Hart Lane was the first in a run of four Premier League derbies for West Ham and, although Sakho is looking ahead to a clash with league-leaders Chelsea next week - with a trip to Arsenal also on the horizon, he has his eyes firmly set on reaching double figures against Palace beforehand.

"I am really looking forward to our game on Saturday against Crystal Palace, I look forward to every game but particularly at home, playing in front of our fans," he said.

"The game against Crystal Palace away at the start of the season was my first game for the club so it was special for me, we won as well which makes it better.

"Every derby is special for the fans, and for the players also. I'm quickly learning how important London derbies are, and after Palace we've got two more against Chelsea and Arsenal.

"They are all big matches, but honestly, I never get fazed by any match. The Chelsea game next week is huge for everyone. A Wednesday evening game under the lights at the Boleyn Ground is something to look forward to. But, we will only focus on the Chelsea after Crystal Palace."

Allardyce admits he was glad to see Sakho back amongst the scorers last time out and has been pleased with the continued effort of the 25-year-old.

"I was happy with everyone's performance (at Tottenham)," he said.

"But of course it was nice to see Sakho score, I think he's been working hard it just hasn't fallen for him. He deserved his goal because of his work rate and to get in that position from where he scored in the first place."

There will be added pressure for Sakho, as well as Enner Valencia, to score the goals to get the Hammers back in the hunt for European football after both Andy Carroll and Carlton Cole were sidelined with injuries.

Former Paris St Germain forward Nene has arrived on a free transfer and, given his shortage of options in attack, Allardyce is likely to give the 33-year-old some game-time against the Eagles.

The Hammers' only other absentee for Saturday is Morgan Amalfitano, who is still serving a three-match ban after his sending off at West Brom in the FA Cup defeat.

Palace boss Alan Pardew believes the Eagles can draw inspiration from West Ham's success this season.

The Hammers have finished 10th and 13th since securing promotion from the Championship in 2012 and Sam Allardyce's side have pushed on again this term, maintaining a challenge for the league's European places.

Palace are on course to survive their second consecutive season in the top flight, with five points separating the Eagles from the relegation zone ahead of their trip to Upton Park.

"Are West Ham a model club for a team like us? Of course, the problem at Palace is the history, it's a yo-yo club," Pardew said.

"The second year in the Premier League, this is the toughest year.

"In the first year after promotion, you can get by with this sheer excitement and adrenaline that being in the Premier League can provide.

"In the second year that kind of runs out and you then are leaning on what you have in the building in terms of quality.

"We're hoping we've got enough in the building to overcome that second year.

"It's a very, very difficult thing to do but once you've done that, you can stabilise if you buy and trade well.

"Stoke, West Ham, Southampton, Newcastle - they've all done that in recent years."

Pardew led West Ham to the Premier League in 2005 via a play-off final victory over Preston and he guided the Hammers to ninth place and an FA Cup final the following year.

"It's still special going back and I have still got some staff and ex-players who are still there," Pardew said.

"And obviously there is the connection from Newcastle now with Kevin (Nolan) and Andy (Carroll).

"I just think Upton Park is a great stadium for football - the atmosphere and the way the crowd get involved in the game, it is a bit like what we have here. It is an emotional ground.

"I hope they will be able to transfer that to the Olympic Stadium - I think that is going to be important to West Ham.

"They are going to get more revenue from moving but what they can't lose is that special kind of atmosphere that you can create there. There were some magic nights."

Fraizer Campbell, Yaya Sanogo and Marouane Chamakh will all miss the clash with hamstring injuries while Jonny Williams (groin) and Jerome Thomas (knock) are also out.

Palace captain Mile Jedinak could make his first start under Pardew, having returned from a sore ankle, while James McArthur has recovered from a thigh problem.

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