'It is a great opportunity'

Gianfranco Zola has said Sunday lunchtime's game against Manchester City cannot come soon enough as he bids to wipe away the frustration of the previous week.

Successive defeats at Bolton Wanderers and Middlesbrough left the manager scratching his head and eager for a return to the Boleyn Ground. Prior to that a superb run of form that had left some suggesting a realistic challenge on seventh spot - and a possible European qualification spot - and the manager is determined to see the team pick themselves up and get going again.

With 36 points still to play for, Zola has stressed there is much to focus the squad for the rest of the campaign and he has repeated how much he is relishing the challenge in east London. "I am really enjoying my experience here at West Ham because I have got fantastic players and they are making it very enjoyable. I don't envy anybody else.

"One win can turn things around," the manager added. "Absolutely, a victory on Sunday would be fantastic for us. I am really looking forward and dying for this game and that is the kind of feeling we must have. It is a great opportunity, we are playing at home."

Zola is aware that lunchtime kick-offs often make for a "strange atmosphere" but he recognises the team's role in lifting the supporters that have backed him and the players time and again - especially with this weekend's game a sell-out. Many present will no doubt be interested by the return of former striker Craig Bellamy but Zola is only concerned by his own men.

"Now he doesn't play for us and that is it," he said to bring discussion to an end, after being quizzed three times about his thoughts on the Manchester City forward who was simply "one of the players we need to look after on Sunday". Zola is ready to welcome City manager Mark Hughes, with whom he had a memorable link-up as a player.

"It will be a pleasure to see Mark Hughes and shake hands with him again. We have been partners and had a very good partnership together. It will be a pleasure to welcome him to our stadium. I knew as a player that he had the quality to be a manager."