West Ham boss David Moyes has challenged his players to carry on doing what they are doing to claim an unexpected place in the Premier League’s top six.
The Hammers have been something of a surprise package this season and head into the latest round of fixtures sitting in sixth place and only a point behind reigning champions Liverpool after losing just one of their last nine games.
They entertain bottom-of-the-table Sheffield United on Monday ahead of a difficult run of fixtures – Tottenham, Manchester City, Leeds, Manchester United and Arsenal are their next five – but with Moyes confident they can remain in the upper reaches.
He said: “I’ve been using the words for a weeks now, ‘Can we hang on in there?’, and I think I’ve still got that.
“If we can be in this position when we get down to single figure games, then we’ll start looking a bit closer and thinking, ‘Hey, wait a minute here…’.
“We’ll take it game by game. You take it game by game anyway, but you’ve also got to have a vision to see where you could be.
“We’re in a period of the tough run of games again which we had at the start of the season, which actually turned out to be fruitful for us.
“We got some good results and points, so if we could come out of this period with a similar points total, we’d be in a really good position, and I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t.”
Moyes’ men will return to league action having been edged out of the FA Cup at the fifth-round stage at Manchester United in midweek, a game in which January loan signing Jesse Lingard was ineligible to play.
He will return to the squad on Monday – he could be joined by striker Michail Antonio, who was rested at Old Trafford although defender Angelo Ogbonna and frontman Andriy Yarmolenko are injured – and his manager will hope to see more of the form which brought him two goals on his debut at Aston Villa.
Moyes said: “He’ll have had a little bit of rest and a chance to recover because he hasn’t had many minutes as far as starting games goes.
“He’s had a little bit of room to get a week’s recovery between these games, so we’ll have Jesse back in and around the squad, which will give us a boost.”