Slaven Speaks - Sunderland

Ahead of the Hammers’ game with Sunderland on Saturday, West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic held his pre-match press conference at the Club's training ground.

With his side flying high in third position, the gaffer was in good spirits as he answered questions on how to break the Black Cats down, the all-important team news and extending the Hammers’ unbeaten run to five matches…

Good morning Slaven, what is the team news ahead of the trip to the North East?

SB: “We still have a few training sessions to go so the picture will be clearer then. Angelo Ogbonna is definitely out, there’s a chance with Andy Carroll he could play. He’s training with the fitness coaches today and then we’ll see tomorrow.

“Winston Reid is doubtful because he feels something in his back or hip area. They are small things but they may be enough to prevent them from playing on Saturday.”

You had some good news yesterday with the return of Enner Valencia into full training?

SB: “Yes, it is great news for us. He’s been out for a while and is not in contention for this weekend; he is still a few weeks away with that. But he’s going to join us in training today and we’ll see how he copes.

“It is massive for us to have him back. If everything goes well, it is matter of two or three weeks. He is a naturally fit player, but we will not rush him back. Him and Alex Song are going to be a big boost for us.”

Incredible away form this season so far, can you make it four straight away wins?

SB: “Of course we can, but it’ll be a difficult game. Our previous wins and the way we did them mean absolutely nothing if we don’t build on them. We can’t let it get to us and think Sunderland will be an easy game, if we do that, then we are in trouble. But we are full of confidence, and that is a good thing.

“We are playing against a team that has been unlucky in some of their games. They need to start collecting points and we are expecting a tough, tough game on Saturday.”

How much of a different challenge is this game compared to the other away games?

SB: “It is a different game to other away games in terms of the size of the clubs. For West Ham, those games meant more because we hadn’t won at Liverpool for such a long time. It is a bigger story when you win away at Arsenal or Manchester City.

“This Saturday is a more difficult game because now everybody around us is expecting us to win this game, that can put us in a difficult situation where we are too relaxed, or are not aware enough. If that happens, then we are in trouble, but if we play like we did in the previous away games we have a massive chance to win.”

Where do you think Sunderland’s biggest threat will come from?

SB: “Of course it’s not the last game of the season, so they don’t have to win each game but they are in the position where they are not happy with a draw, especially home games against us. Their objective is to win. They are a good team and they have some very good players.

“I am not expecting a normal game, they are either a very stable, aggressive team or stiff. They have some really good players. Jermaiin Defoe is still a top striker, his movement and pace is excellent so he is the main threat. But they also have Fabio Borini, Jeremain Lens, Yann M’Vila and other good players.”