Pellegrini targets fourth straight London Stadium victory
Manuel Pellegrini hopes his West Ham United side will continue to successfully defend their London Stadium fortress when Everton visit on Saturday afternoon.
The Hammers are unbeaten in east London since before Christmas, going seven games without defeat in all competitions, including six in the Premier League.
Another three points could see Pellegrini’s side rise as high as seventh in the table, above Wolverhampton Wanderers and Watford, and see the Irons record four straight home wins for the first time since May 2002.
The manager says the home advantage provided by the 57,000-strong Claret and Blue Army who attend every game has been key to his team’s Stratford success in 2019.
The old stadium I know was a beautiful stadium but it was too small for this team. Just 35,000 people is not enough for West Ham
“Most of those games we won at home the atmosphere was very good,” he confirmed. “Fans were enjoying the game, they were all involved, supporting the team and not thinking or talking or acting like what happened last season.
“[The atmosphere] depends on the performance of the team, that's why it was so important to win those three games in a row, and now it's more important to win the fourth game.”
Nearly three full seasons on from West Ham’s move from the Boleyn Ground to London Stadium, Pellegrini believes the vast majority of supporters know the importance of having a larger home ground and all the benefits that come with it.
“Maybe they all realise this team needs a big stadium. The old stadium I know was a beautiful stadium but it was too small for this team. Just 35,000 people is not enough for West Ham.
“Now we have 60,000 people at every game we play. Maybe they understand, also they are creating the atmosphere we see in every game.”
On the pitch, Pellegrini has some selection decisions to make, with Chicharito and Fabian Balbuena both pushing for starts, having returned from international duty to train with their teammates at London Stadium on Friday.
With the likes of Declan Rice, Marko Arnautovic, Manuel Lanzini, Felipe Anderson, Lukasz Fabianski, Pedro Obiang and Arthur Masuaku also spending time away with their respective national teams, the manager must decide which players are in the best condition and form before picking his starting eleven.
“It's the same with Everton, they have a lot of players with their national squads,” he observed. “It's the same for every team.
“It’s a difficult week because you don't have the players, they have their mind with the national squad but I hope from now to Saturday they will be involved again in our season.”
Arnautovic scored twice for Austria in a UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier with Israel, while Chicharito did likewise in West Ham’s come-from-behind 4-3 win over Huddersfield a fortnight ago before netting for Mexico in a win over Paraguay in midweek.
Pellegrini will need to decide which of the two will lead the line against the Blues, or he could opt to pick both.
“Always for a striker it's good to score goals,” he concluded. “I hope that Marko will return improving what he did in the last game. Two goals will be important for him.
“Also we must focus on Marko Arnautovic and what he did in the last game, [as] most parts of the team had a very poor performance until the last 20 minutes when we changed the score.”