Zola wants repeat performance

Gianfranco Zola is hopeful history will repeat itself when West Ham United meet Portsmouth at the Boleyn Ground on Boxing Day.

On 26 December last year, the Hammers returned from Fratton Park with a 4-1 victory to kick-started a revival that ended with the club securing a ninth-placed finish. The manager is not sure whether he will have Valon Behrami - who has been in full training this week - available for Saturday as part of his upbeat squad but he is mindful that the trip to Tottenham Hotspur follows swiftly next Monday.

Zola said: "The good news is that Valon Behrami has been training with me so he might be available. The squad is the same as last week other than Danny Gabbidon is out with a hamstring injury and Valon Behrami might be back.

"We need everybody. A team is made of the people that play and do not play - they are the same importance. Playing two games like that you have to have fresh legs available.

"We are looking for the same result [as last year] but I know it will be a tough match - tougher than last year. I am confident because we are in a good moment, in a good spirit so I'm not afraid of playing this game."

Although Spurs is looming large, all that really matters to the manager is Portsmouth and the possibility of moving clear of the bottom three. "They have been playing well recently, they look compact and seem to have found their way. There is no doubt that it will be a tough game but we have found our way as well. It's going to be an interesting match.

"It's a game that we need to get a result and it has to be three points but we have to do it intelligently as we are playing against a team that is in very good condition. We will like to play very carefully."

The manager emphasised the spirit in the camp, fuelled by the positives of a 1-1 draw with Chelsea on Sunday that could have been so much more. He is not dwelling on the harshly-awarded penalty last time out though. "Hopefully in the future some decisions will go for us so I will stick to that. It happens and is part of the game and we have to accept it - even though it is painful.

"There's a very, very good atmosphere right now and I think the Chelsea game has lifted everybody up. It is important and it is essential when you play football that you have that kind of atmosphere.

"Tactics are important in football but if they are not supported by the passion and desire the players showed the other day then you are always short. That was the thing I admired the most and training on Wednesday morning was great - it really makes you pleased.

"This time of year you have to be careful with what you are doing as you can't do very much with so many games coming up. In our case not having a big squad you have to try to not do too much. I am trying to keep the spirit alive and the positivity which is very important and I think it is working."

The squad have been vocal in support of the manager in recent weeks and Zola was pleased to see the togetherness in the camp show itself against league leaders Chelsea.

"When you do something you hope that the players share what you are doing and they work on what you say. For me it was very encouraging to see the passion the players showed in the game. It means that we are creating something and they want to work on that."