Pardew: great opportunity for players

WEST HAM manager Alan Pardew is confident his team can finally hit their stride when they take on Palermo in tonight’s UEFA Cup return leg.

The Hammers travel to the Renzo Barbera stadium needing to overcome a 1-0 first-leg deficit in order to continue their European adventure. Pardew’s team have won just once this season and face an Italian side that is third in Serie A.

“I feel this is a great opportunity to put in a really top-class performance, which I don’t think we’ve given since the game when we lost at Liverpool,” said Pardew, who believes his players are eager to show a better image than they gave in their opening leg at Upton Park two weeks ago.

“We felt very aggrieved to come away with a 1-0 defeat, as good as Palermo are,” he said. “We entered this competition with our eyes wide open. It’s fantastic for this young team, we’ve drawn a tough team and I think the game is still very much in the balance.

“We need to attack this game, our aim must be to score two goals and hopefully that will be enough to see us through.”

Pardew insists talks of a takeover at the club have not distracted West Ham players from tonight’s task. “The media have picked up more on the story (of the takeover) than the players or myself. The players seem unaffected. We have just tried to do our work. Unfortunately, because of a couple of performances that weren’t up to our standard, people have read all sorts of things into it.”

West Ham face an uphill task as they will be without defenders Anton Ferdinand and Christian Dailly, both injured in Saturday’s defeat at Manchester City. To make matters worse, Pardew will have to wait for the results of late fitness tests on defenders Jamie Collins and Tyrone Mears.

Palermo coach Francesco Guidolin will have all his players available with the exception of defender Giuseppe Biava.

Biava sustained a muscle injury in last weekend’s defeat against Empoli, which marked his team’s first slip this season.

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