Manuel Pellegrini has vowed to take a positive approach into Saturday’s Premier League clash with his former club Manchester City at London Stadium.
The West Ham United manager, who led City to the title and two EFL Cups in three seasons in charge, has repeatedly stated his intention to ‘play like a big team’, regardless of the opposition.
That approach worked well in the home matches with Manchester United, who were beaten 3-1, unbeaten Chelsea, who were held to a goalless draw, and Burnley, who were dominated for long periods of the Hammers’ 4-2 victory.
Pep Guardiola’s champions will provide an even stiffer test, with City top of the table, unbeaten and boasting the best attacking and defensive records in the division but, again, Pellegrini has told his team not to take a backward step.
At the end of the season this team will be in a better position that it is at the moment
“We return to action feeling fresh and confident after the two-week international break, which followed a run of three Premier League matches without defeat,” Pellegrini explained.
“Manchester City is obviously a club that I know very well and have great respect for, although Saturday will be the first time that I have managed against them!
“City are obviously a top team playing very well at this moment, but I hope that we can be competitive and continue our good run of form at London Stadium.
“We will certainly be positive. I prefer teams that start the game thinking to win it and not just to have a good result, no matter who you’re playing. That’s why I try to put creative and technical players in the starting line-up and I think that we are improving a lot.
“At the end of the season this team will be in a better position that it is at the moment and we will always think with a winning mentality to get as high in the table as we can.”
After losing their opening four matches, West Ham have lost two of eight in the Premier League, climbing from the bottom three to their current position of 13th.
With captain Mark Noble available again after a three-match ban and both Andy Carroll and Jack Wilshere returning from ankle surgeries, Pellegrini is optimistic his team will continue their recent improvement over the coming weeks and months.
“Four points from our last two matches is a positive return and the players have all worked very well during the international break,” the manager observed.
“We took a squad to Brentford for a friendly match and it was a very worthwhile exercise for the players who haven’t played many minutes recently, the likes of Angelo Ogbonna and Javier Hernandez, plus Mark Noble who has been suspended and Andy Carroll, who has returned after injury.
“It was good to see Andy play 45 minutes without any problems and he is always a player who, when he comes on the pitch, gives different things, so I hope he can stay fit from now until the end of the season. He is always an important option.”