West Ham manager Avram Grant is not surprised by Aston Villa’s dismal season and has challenged his team to close the gap on Gerard Houllier’s side.
West Ham are just one point off the foot of the table but can climb out of the relegation zone, and within two points of Villa, with a victory at Upton Park on Saturday.
But they will face a Villa side who have picked up four precious points from their last two matches, easing their relegation fears.
Now Grant wants his side to put together a similar run to ensure their Premier League survival.
“I cannot say that I’m shocked by Villa’s position,” he said.
“Everything can happen. They’re a good team with a very good manager and good players but sometimes things like this happen.”
“We need to do our job and win this game against a very good team.”
“They are now in a better position after their last two results. But it’s so tight at the bottom and in this league every one or two wins will put you in a better position.”
Grant’s side will have the unenviable task of restricting striker Darren Bent, who has scored five goals since his 24 million pound move to Villa Park in January.
But the manager thinks his January signings, notably Demba Ba, Robbie Keane and Wayne Bridge, can measure up to Villa’s big-money buy.
“I think we did well enough in the January transfer window ourselves,” he said.
“The players we bought are now some of the best in the team.”
“Villa have done well too and spent a lot of money and they have enough to spend that amount. But our club cannot spend 20 million pounds on a player, not even half.”
Scott Parker is facing a race against time to recover from his Achilles tendon problem to face Villa, but fellow midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger will face his former club.
“It is a big game for him but I know Thomas and if we win it doesn’t matter who it is against. He wants to win especially given our position in the league,” Grant said.
Jack Collison (knee) and Junior Stanislas (hernia) are expected to miss out.
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