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West Ham v Norwich City: Bilic bullish over season start

Slaven Bilic is taking no notice of how West Ham’s fortunes changed dramatically last season following a strong start as he bids to find a consistent streak in the Premier League. 

The Upton Park club play host to Norwich City on Saturday brimming with confidence after sealing a unique treble of consecutive away league wins at Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City. 

A 2-1 victory at the Etihad Stadium last weekend means Bilic’s men are third after six games, one point behind Manchester United and three adrift of leaders City. 

But much has been made of the fact that West Ham’s home form is in stark contrast to results on their travels, the 2-0 success over Newcastle United last time out at Upton Park ending a four-match winless run on home soil in all competitions that included three defeats on the spin. 

Nevertheless, there is a feel-good factor at the London club, like there was last term when West Ham were tipped to challenge for a European place, having been fourth in mid-December under Sam Allardyce. 

West Ham did qualify for the Europa League, via top spot in the Premier League Fair Play table, but in the league proper finished 12th. 

Not that Bilic is reading anything into recent history. 

“It’s still too early to compare,” said the West Ham manager, who conceded his side were “second best” in their extra-time League Cup third-round exit at Leicester City on Tuesday. 

“Last season there were injuries and some unlucky games. Perhaps we lost a bit of motivation. 

“We’re not looking too far ahead, we’re thinking about September and October. We don’t want to look too far ahead or think about where we might finish in the table, it is too early for that.”

Andy Carroll made his first start since February at the King Power Stadium in midweek, but Bilic – who will again be without Angelo Ogbonna (hamstring), Alex Song (ankle) and Enner Valencia (knee) – is wary of expecting too much, too soon from the striker following his knee injury. 

While West Ham were dumped out of the League Cup, Norwich followed up the 1-1 draw at Liverpool last Sunday by reaching round four with a 3-0 home victory over West Brom, Kyle Lafferty netting in his first appearance of the season. 

Norwich manager Alex Neil praised the professionalism of his fringe players after making eight changes for the Albion clash, hinting that he may face selection dilemmas prior to the West Ham game. 

A first clean sheet of the season also pleased Neil, who must find a way of ending Norwich’s 13-game winless run of away games in London.

Thu 24 Sep, 2015
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