Manager on Monday

Gianfranco Zola may have a depleted squad to work with this week and next because of international commitments but the focus remains one last big effort to secure a spot in next season's UEFA Europa League.

West Ham Uited moved to within seven points of sixth-placed Everton with a 1-1 Premier League draw at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday and, with European qualification set to go down to seventh in the table, Zola's Hammers have a real chance of booking their passage to the continent.

The manager has set his team a target of reaching 52 points - a tally he believes could be enough to finish in the top-seven - and with a home fixture against Sunderland to follow the international break, West Ham can move to within eight points of that number with a victory over the Black Cats.

With defenders Matthew Upson and James Collins and forwards Savio, Kieron Dyer and Carlton Cole - who has completed a two-match suspension - all set to be available for the visit of Ricky Sbragia's side, Zola knows a win will be well within the grasp on Saturday 4 April.

"It would be a massive achievement [to qualify for Europe]. All my pleasure would be for the players. You see them on a Saturday but I see them every day and the way they work is unbelievable and they deserve to get their reward and reaching Europe would be a big achievement and a big result for them."

Any success against Sunderland will be based on the defensive strength that was so clearly evident at Ewood Park. There, captain Lucas Neill - who performed superbly against his former club - and central defensive partner James Tomkins produced admirably brave performances in repelling Blackburn's aerial threat.

While Rovers dominated for long periods - particularly after half-time - Neill and Tomkins threw themselves in front of a succession of long throws from Morten Gamst Pedersen and shots on goal from strikers Benni McCarthy and Jason Roberts. Zola was understandably delighted with his defenders' resolve.

"I'm really happy, certainly happier than [Blackburn manager] Sam [Allardyce] I suppose. But it was a tough match considering all the problems that we have injury-wise with big players. I consider it a very good result.

"The players are strong. If you see some of the defending Scott Parker or Lucas Neill did, you will see they have a passion for what they are doing. They really care so it's making the difference.

"James has been excellent. He doesn't look like he's 19-years-old. He looks like a veteran and I'm very, very pleased about him and he's improving. The whole team, including Lucas Neill and Jonathan Spector, were massive. The team is looking very well."