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2013-03-15T07:00:00 Updated 2015-02-19T01:07:35

O'Neil happy to be middle man

Gary O'Neil is hoping to achieve his first-ever Barclays Premier League victory at Chelsea.

The West Ham United midfielder suffered 12 straight top-flight defeats at the hands of the Blues during spells with Portsmouth and Middlesbrough. However, the No32 ended his unenviable personal record when he was part of the Hammers side that defeated Chelsea 3-1 at the Boleyn Ground in December.

Having impressed greatly in a new holding midfield role in the 1-0 victory at Stoke City last time out, O'Neil goes into Sunday's London derby at Stamford Bridge full of confidence and belief that West Ham can complete their first league 'double' of 2012/13.


"It was a decent performance at Stoke," he confirmed. "The most important thing was that we kept a clean sheet because it gave us a great chance to win the game. We played some decent bits and, if we had been a bit more clinical, could have won by a couple more goals.

"I went to Chelsea a few times with Portsmouth and we did OK on quite a few occasions but they had a fantastic team then. I'm not saying they don't now but those were the Jose Mourinho days with the likes of Arjen Robben, Damien Duff, Claude Makelele and Frank Lampard and all that.

"I always enjoyed going there. We did OK at times but then Lampard always seemed to pop up and nick one and we'd end up losing. Hopefully we can do a good job on Sunday and take a step closer to guaranteeing our Premier League survival for next season as early as possible."

O'Neil's superb performance at the Britannia Stadium was recognised by manager Sam Allardyce, who singled the midfielder out for praise in his post-match interview with West Ham TV. Playing in an unfamiliar holding role, the 29-year-old was lauded for being the 'focus of starting our attacks off by being composed on the ball' by Big Sam.

"It's a position that I think I can play. I don't mind playing in any of the three positions in the middle, really, and with Nobes picking up a knock I've been able to play a couple of games on the trot in there. I enjoyed it.

"We were a bit unlucky not to get something against Tottenham and then we got our first away win for a long time, so I'm just pleased to have been a part of it."

Against Chelsea, O'Neil is likely to come up against the Blues' outstanding attacking midfield trio of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata - a challenge he is ready to rise to.

"Having seen them play this season, that seems to be an area Chelsea look to exploit with more than one player. There is normally the three of them in there so I'm sure the gaffer and the coaching staff will have come up with something to combat that. It won't just be me running around in there against the three ot them!"

Since that vital victory in the Potteries, West Ham have been forced to wait to play again after last weekend's scheduled visit of Manchester United was postponed due to the Red Devils' FA Cup commitments. O'Neil said the break in fixtures had allowed the players to remain fresh, but that many of them would rather have been on the pitch last weekend.

"Especially for myself, having got back in and made a couple of starts, I wanted there to be a game last weekend, really. It is how it is - sometimes you have to play loads in the space of a few days and sometimes you have to wait your turn and have a long time to prepare.

"We have a big game and a big test ahead of us at Chelsea. They are a good side so we're going to have to make sure we get it tactically spot-on and everyone performs to their best to give us a chance."

Gary O'Neil

While West Ham have not played for a fortnight, Chelsea will have contested three matches in that time - home and away UEFA Europa League round of 32 ties against Romanian side Steaua Bucharest and a draining FA Cup with Budweiser sixth-round match at Manchester United last Sunday.

"There is a chance of them being less fresh than us, with them having played on Thursday because it gives them less time to recover, but they have also got a very big squad and are used to playing in mid-week because they've been playing in Europe for the last ten years.

"I don't think it will give us a massive advantage but it could definitely help if we go out there and do our jobs right and stay in the game as long as possible and frustrate them. Late in the game, we might get some chances.

"I'm sure Chelsea will be ready, but we'll be going there with the Stoke game still in our minds and how resilient and well-organised we were defensively and we'll try to build from that."

West Bromwich Albion

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