- Hammers manager Slaven Bilic believes his side’s trip to Swansea City on Boxing Day is a crucial one
- The boss revealed how the squad are feeling ahead of the Christmas clash
- He also revealed whose absence will be a huge blow to the team
Slaven Bilic highlighted the importance of West Ham’s visit to south Wales on Boxing Day and has urged his team to show their strength when they face Swansea City.
The Hammers will look to pick up their third successive victory when they travel to the Liberty Stadium on Monday having recorded home wins over Burnley and Hull City in recent weeks.
Two Mark Noble strikes – one from the penalty spot – helped defeat the Irons’ last two opponents by a single goal and boss Bilic admitted his team may have to step up to down Bob Bradley’s side.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, the Croatian said: “It’s still early in the season. The season is very long, and we can’t say how we will play in April and May.
“We have seven points from three games but now we have two games until the end of the first half of the season and I’m expecting us to be stronger.
“This is why this game on Boxing Day is so big. Christmas is a special time of the year. You have to train on Christmas Day because every game is so important.”
Last time out on the road, West Ham picked up a crucial point at Anfield against Jurgen Klopp’s high-flying Liverpool, though at one point on Merseyside it looked as if the Hammers would be heading back to east London with all three in the bag.
And with a run of good results to look back on, Bilic explained his squad is in a confident mood heading into the Boxing Day showdown.
I’m expecting us to be stronger and this is why this game on Boxing Day is so big. Christmas is a special time of the year.
“The morale was always good,” he continued. “That’s why we got seven points in the last three games.
“Of course the points affected our mood and I now expect confidence. I expect us to do better than before.
“It’s was very important to get six points out of [the games against Burnley and Hull]. We got seven points including the Liverpool game and that was crucial. We will approach the next couple of games with confidence.”
One setback to come out the Hull match, however, was the first half booking shown to influential Spaniard Pedro Obiang, meaning he will now miss the Christmas cracker in Wales due to suspension.
“It is a blow,” Bilic commented on the midfielder’s absence. “He is playing well. He has been very important for us. It has been important to get that balance.
“Players like him are like a metronome on a piano. They are keeping the balance and keeping the shape of the team. So it is a blow for us.
“But that position we have good players that can cover. I have the same type of player only a bit different. I expect us not to feel it that much.”