Slaven Bilic hopes to create another cherished derby memory when he takes on Tottenham for the first time as West Ham manager.
On his West Ham debut as an imposing centre-back, Bilic featured in a 1-0 win at White Hart Lane in 1996.
If the Premier League table is anything to go by, this latest clash between north and east London could be a similarly close-run affair.
The sides are locked together on 21 points, with Spurs holding a slender edge on goal difference to lie fifth having avoided defeat in the league since the opening day of the season.
“It is a special game and it was special when I used to play for West Ham,” Bilic said.
“My first game was Spurs away and we won 1-0 and Dani, the Portuguese player, scored.
“It’s a special game, yes. It’s a cliche that every game is for three points, but there are some games that are more special to the fans and they are derby games and this one is definitely one of them.
“Some are saying this is the game of the season for West Ham. I wouldn’t say that, but it is a special game and you can that feel around the camp this week and we’re looking forward to it, of course. We are waiting for it big time.”
West Ham boast an enviable record on their travels this season, having collected wins at Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City.
White Hart Lane has also proved a happy hunting ground of late, with a resounding 3-0 victory in 2013-14 almost followed up with another triumph last term before Harry Kane’s stoppage-time penalty salvaged a 2-2 draw for the hosts.
Defeat at Watford preceded a 1-1 draw at Everton before the international break, although Bilic will be bolstered by returning trio Diafra Sakho (thigh), Alex Song (ankle) and Pedro Obiang (thigh) as he seeks a return to winning ways.
Holding midfielder Song would make the first appearance of a second consecutive loan spell from Barcelona, although attacking duo Enner Valencia and Dimitri Payet are set for considerable periods out with ankle injuries.
Tottenham forward Son Heung-min returned to action for his national team South Korea after six weeks out with a foot injury and his comeback softens the blow of Erik Lamela’s absence through suspension.
England winger Andros Townsend is under consideration for Mauricio Pochettino once more, having been banished from first-team action for an argument with a fitness coach, but Nabil Bentaleb is a doubt having sustained an ankle injury while playing for Algeria.
“I think everyone knows that Nabil got a bad tackle in the first minute of Algeria’s game against Tanzania and he’s not 100 per cent,” Pochettino said.
“We need to be sure. He’ll work hard to get back as soon as possible, but it’s difficult for him on Sunday.”
Key Opta stats
– The injured Dimitri Payet has been involved in 35 per cent of West Ham’s Premier League goals this season – more than any other player at the club.
– West Ham have won four of their six Premier League away matches this season, having won only four of the previous 25.
– Three of Tottenham’s last four goals against West Ham have been scored in the 90th minute.
– West Ham’s start of 21 points from the opening 12 matches is their best in the Premier League era.
– Tottenham have lost two of their past 19 Premier League matches, with 11 wins and six draws during this period.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!