Pards attacking Europe on two fronts

Alan Pardew insists that West Ham United still have a realistic chance of qualifying for Europe via our final position in the Premiership.

While next week's FA Cup semi-final against Middlesbrough means that Hammers are just 90 minutes away from a UEFA Cup spot, the manager believes that two good results from the Easter weekend clashes against Manchester City and Boro will ensure his team have a great opportunity to finish in seventh place in the league - a position that is also likely to guarantee UEFA Cup football.

"It's important that we put the semi-final to the back of our minds ahead of the two games this weekend," says Pards. "I don't want it to cloud the issue we are facing in the Premiership, because we have a fantastic chance of finishing in seventh place.

"I think that would secure a European spot and we have a realistic chance of making it. Ourselves, Bolton and Wigan are all fighting for it, Newcastle and Everton have put themselves in the frame, and you wouldn't put it past Charlton either.

"It's a great opportunity for us and this coming weekend will probably decide whether we are going to do it. I would say a minimum requirement is going to be four points from these two games and we certainly believe we are capable of obtaining that total.

"We've still got two routes into Europe open to us and there aren't many clubs who can say that at this stage of the season."

This weekend sees Hammers face our FA Cup quarter-final opponents on Saturday and our semi-final opponents just two days later, and Pards admits that he is expecting two very different encounters - one against a City side desperate to get back to winning ways in the Premiership and the other against a Middlesbrough team who are likely to have one eye on their UEFA Cup semi-final first leg against Steaua Bucharest in Romania just three days later.

"Manchester City have had a tough time since we beat them in the quarter-final, and Stuart Pearce will be desperate for a result," he says. "So are we, though, and it will be a big morale-boosting victory for whoever wins on Saturday.

"It's going to be a very difficult game, and I don't expect us to be able to win comfortably. They have had some tough results lately, but they are still a very good team and will cause us problems.

"It's a really tough week for Middlesbrough but, to be fair to Steve McClaren, he didn't bleat about it. It's going to be difficult for him, and he knows he is going to have to change his team, so I don't think we're going to learn too much about Middlesbrough from Monday's game.

"I think it's an advantage for us. Thursday night away at Steaua Bucharest is a tricky one - I certainly wouldn't want it three days before an FA Cup semi-final."