Captain's Blog - European dream

It is hard to put into words how we all felt last week after the game against Chelsea. A match where we knew we probably wouldn't dominate the possession but we knew that if, with a bit of luck and some smart tactical play, we could keep Chelsea goalless for a long time - we would have a chance.

As it turned out, not only did we keep them goalless in the first half, we also had the two clearest and best chances. Like most games you could talk about this season, had we scored one or both of those it would have given us so much to hold on to and it would have changed the complexion of the game completely.

Having said that, we didn't but we still went into the second half with a game plan that if we could keep the score at 0-0 then we would get another chance. Unfortunately they scored, probably from one of their more scrappy build-ups and they, Chelsea being Chelsea, finished the game off professionally.

Again, we could talk about the penalty. It was a clear penalty, no one could dispute it and had we scored it, we would have definitely walked away with a point out of the game. It possibly could have changed the dimension of the game and would have given us the impetus to go on and score again and maybe put them on the backfoot.

It was disappointing to come away from the game having lost it, but there were a lot of positives to take out of it which is pleasing. But now to this weekend and it is a game that is going to be just as tough against a Stoke team that don't lose many at home. But, it is a match we feel we have to win.

The players have been made aware of that all week. It's an obvious statement but we are going there looking to upset Stoke's home form and steal the points. If we do that, it gives us an unbelievable position to be in, going into the last three games of the season.

We are trying to secure that seventh position, so there is a lot riding on this game. It is not the be-all and end-all if we don't take maximum points, as there are still three games to go after that.

Games we can win, nine points which I am sure will be enough to get seventh spot, but we want to get the points on board as soon as possible and we see Stoke as a game in which we can possibly do that. It is going to take a massive effort from all the boys because like I said, it is going to be a very difficult game.

There is of course, an 'old boy' in the Stoke ranks in Matty Etherington. Position-wise I will be up against him and friendship goes out of the window soon as you cross that line. But I am very pleased for Matty, he's done well since he left us for Stoke. He's a very good player and we wish him well, but we hope on Saturday that he has an off-day.

I am sure we are going to be supported as always in good voice, we thank you in advance for coming up to Stoke to cheer us on.

Apparently, the atmosphere there kind of sums up what the Premier League is all about, so that's another factor we have to consider - keeping their fans quiet as long as possible, which I am sure our fans will help us do. Three points will take a massive step towards putting us in the Europa League next season.

The boys are as bubbly as ever. There are a few young lads in there keeping the energy up in the week, the excitement and the belief is strong despite it being a demanding and testing season, where we have had injuries to key players.

Apart from a few indifferent results beforehand, since December, I feel we have really deserved the position we are in now and possibly deserve to be in seventh place at the end of the season. This is because of the manner in which we have tried to play and the performances and results we have got, with the relatively small squad that has been available to us.

The boys deserve it, the fans deserve it, and the club deserves it. But we have to get there still. We have had a much better than expected season to what many people may have thought we would have, but we want to finish on a high and I think that it is something that everyone associated with the club deserves, the team getting into Europe.

Some people might talk about not wanting to be in it because of the demands on the squad, but West Ham want to be in Europe, deserve to be in Europe and for the supporters to be in Europe. It leads to bigger and better players to want to come here and play for the club. There are so many positives for the club to be there.

It is now up to us, as a group of guys to go out there and execute the manager's game plan and get those vital three points on Saturday.

Lucas Neill signature

Lucas Neill