World Cup Battle At The Bridge

Tony Gale reckons the two games against Chelsea could help make Sven-Goran Eriksson decide whether Joe Cole and Michael Carrick are worthy of a World Cup place.

And he reckons good performances by the duo might even edge Frank Lampard out of the running.

"Frank, Michael, and Joe Cole are battling for World Cup places so he can look at these games as being a gauge as to who are the better midfield players, and how they have come along.

"If the West Ham lads can dominate that middle of the midfield it could be interesting, especially if we were to make the fifth round.

"Regarding Frank, everybody has got to be given time to settle in and it was made harder for him because Ranieri was playing him on the right hand side."

Tactically, Tony thinks it will be a fascinating battle, and he adds:

"You never know with Claudio Ranieri; he played a three the other night but if Hasselbaink is fit he might want to play Zola behind the front two and then Frank might have to retreat slightly.

"But I would guess he will stick with the system which worked so well the other night against Norwich - but he could go and totally change it.

"Frank is a good taker of chances so it will be interesting to see if Glenn tries to play a bit narrower."

With the entire West Ham back four one booking away from a suspension, Tony warns against unnecessary bookings.

"They don't want to be getting silly bookings either because it is a thin squad, as has well been documented.

"You have got to be particularly careful kicking balls away, getting involved in melees, and deliberate handballs; it is the silly sendings off and bookings you can't accept rather than mistimed challenges."

As for the Paolo Di Canio saga, Tony remains unmoved either by comments from newspapers saying he will still go to Old Trafford and Paolo's agent, who says his client will remain a Hammer.

"They have got until next weekend to sort it out - I think they are playing cat and mouse with each other but Man U and West Ham can't come to a price agreement.

"But the deadline for the Champions' League games is next weekend so we will know one way or another soon and if they don't buy him West Ham have obviously got a good player.

"He scored the goal against Leicester but I wouldn't say he was the difference between the two sides; it was a well taken goal but I thought Nigel Winterburn was absolutely outstanding.

"His attitude and way he played was fantastic and he drove the other boys on when there were lows in the game.

"John Moncur was also great against Robbie Savage and Dennis Wise; you need people like him in your squad coming in and going out of the team."

He thinks the match at Stamford Bridge will be a different proposition from last weekend and adds: "Leicester play very different from Chelsea; with Akinbiyi and Deane it tells you what tactics they have, and they want to ruffle your feathers.

"This one will be a football match and if it is as good as the game at Upton Park we are in for a treat."

The Hammers are also competing with Chelsea for the signature of 17 year old Liam Rosenior, and Tony hopes he will join the Hammers - if they decide they want him.

"I know his dad Leroy rates him and I know a couple of scouts who have seen him who are friends of mine - and they say he is outstanding, so hopefully Leroy has a bit of influence on him!"