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West Ham v Leicester City: Bilic relishing ´special´ first home game

Slaven Bilic knows “on fire” Leicester City are capable of bringing West Ham back down to earth in his first Premier League home game in charge of the London club.

Bilic could scarcely have hoped for a better start in the top flight as he masterminded a 2-0 derby victory over Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium last Sunday.

West Ham had not beaten Arsene Wenger’s side for eight years, but goals from Cheikhou Kouyate and Mauro Zarate ended that dismal record on the opening weekend of the season.

Former West Ham defender Bilic had been criticised for fielding an under-strength side against Astra just three days earlier as his side crashed out of the UEFA Europa League at the third qualifying round stage.

Bilic stated that the Premier League is West Ham’s priority and the ex-Croatia centre-back is eager to build on such an impressive start when they face a Leicester side that beat Sunderland 4-2 on the opening day.

When asked if it will be a special moment take charge at Upton Park, he said: “Yes, it is a bit special. It’s the first home game against Leicester, who had a great first game last week.”

He added: “They are on fire, they scored four goals, they just continue to play the way they finished the end of last season. They are very good at pressing, they react well when they win the ball.

“They have a good delivery from both sides and look dangerous from set pieces. You don’t have to be sloppy for them to punish you, but if you are then you have absolutely no chance against them.

“We have to be prepared and stop them.”

Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri knows he may need to come up with an alternative plan to make it two wins out of two.

The wily Italian said: “It’s the first match away so I must think about every solution and then I’ll choose the best XI.

“We play away so maybe we can play with three at the back. West Ham made a fantastic result at Arsenal – better than us because who believed that Arsenal could lose the match – nobody. 

“They made a fantastic performance, scored twice and got a clean sheet. I watched the match – it was outstanding. I’ll try to close the space and try to win the match.”

Bilic revealed that striker Diafra Sakho will be in contention despite being arrested and bailed over an alleged domestic assault, but out-of-favour midfielder Morgan Amalfitano will not be considered.

Joey O’Brien (knock), Enner Valencia (knee), Pedro Obiang (muscular) and Andy Carroll (knee) are all ruled out. 

Leicester have also had off-field issues to content with after Jamie Vardy apologised and was hit with “substantial fine” following allegations he racially insulted a man in a casino.

The striker, who scored against Sunderland last weekend, is available again, so midfielder Matty James (knee) is the visitors’ only absentee.

Thu 13 Aug, 2015
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