Declan Rice is expecting an ultra-competitive Premier League derby when West Ham United host Tottenham Hotspur at London Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Fixtures between the two capital rivals are always eventful, with both sets of players acutely aware of how important victory is to everyone associated with their respective clubs.
Rice has faced Spurs nine times and already enjoyed and endured the full range of emotions during his relatively short career, including thrilling comebacks to win at Wembley in October 2017 and draw at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium a year ago, an historic victory in north London in April 2019 and four disappointing defeats.
The 22-year-old captained the Hammers in both meetings with Tottenham last season, the most recent of which ended in a 2-1 home win in February this year.
The England international is expected to lead the Irons out at London Stadium again on Sunday and he is eager to secure a similar result and help his team climb back into the top six.
Our target as a team is to do as well as we did last year. We want to push on and do better
“It’ll be feisty, lots of tackles, a good atmosphere and two teams that want to win and we’ll be ready and will go out there and give it everything to win the game,” he predicted.
“Our target as a team is to do as well as we did last year. We want to push on and do better. We’ve started well in the Europa League, so we really want to carry that on and do well in that, as well as all the other competitions we’re in.”
Rice has been outstanding again this season, captaining West Ham to seven victories in eleven appearances and scoring twice as David Moyes’ side made a perfect start to their debut UEFA Europa League group-stage campaign.
And the young midfielder said his manager’s guidance has been key to his fine form in Claret and Blue.
“The manager has just said to me to go out there and do what I do best and given me the confidence to go out there and perform.
“To be fair, that’s all you can as for from a manager. I’m really lucky that I’ve got him as a manager and that we’ve got a really close relationship.
“Captaining West Ham in Europe is a really special moment every time, putting the armband on and walking out with thousands of us in the stadium.”
With Moyes’ encouragement, Rice has added a new dimension to his game in recent months, driving forward with the ball at his feet, combining with his teammates in more attacking areas and arriving late in the opposition penalty area with the intention of improving his goalscoring output.
“It’s probably something I’ve added to my game this season which is with the ball, having more confidence and belief in myself that I can do things on the pitch, driving with the ball, making one-twos, quick passes and holding people off… just loads of things really,” he confirmed, when asked to name his best attribute as a player.
“This season, one thing I can definitely say I have improved on is my play with the ball.”
West Ham supporters will hope to see all of those things from Rice, and another victory over Tottenham, when they head to London Stadium on Sunday. Seats are available for the 2pm kick-off here via the Ticket Exchange.
For fans who cannot be there in person, the game will be screened live in the UK by Sky Sports and across the world by the Premier League’s international broadcast partners.