Alan Curbishley knows each and every one of his West Ham players must be on top form if they are to get anything out of tomorrow’s trip to Chelsea.
The Hammers are unbeaten in six matches, thanks in no small part to a dramatic penalty save from goalkeeper Robert Green deep into stoppage time against Tottenham last weekend.
Curbishley, though, knows his men will face an uphill battle to get another positive result from their journey across the capital.
Despite a troubled start to the campaign which saw Chelsea controversially part company with manager Jose Mourinho, the Blues – now under the guidance of Israeli Avram Grant – have slowly moved through the gears and found some consistency.
The 4-0 away demolition of Rosenborg in the Champions League on Wednesday night secured a place in the last 16 of Europe’s elite club competition and made it a run of 13 matches unbeaten.
Curbishley is in no doubt of the task facing the Hammers tomorrow.
“When you play a top-four team you need a few things going for you,” he said.
“You also need your players to all be on form – you can not carry anyone.”
Striker Dean Ashton is in contention for a place in the starting XI, having sharpened his match fitness with a brace for the reserves in midweek, and Curbishley could elect to play the England hopeful in a two-man attack alongside Carlton Cole.
Midfielder Scott Parker also featured for the second string against Derby, and is expected to feature tomorrow, while Freddie Ljungberg will be back in the squad after showing no ill effects from the migraine which ruled him out against Spurs.
However, the fitness of Lee Bowyer (hernia) will be assessed ahead of the trip to Stamford Bridge and striker Craig Bellamy (groin) is still out.
Midfielder Hayden Mullins has returned from his recent injury lay-off, and is relishing the chance to go toe-to-toe with the likes of former Hammer Frank Lampard tomorrow.
“We won’t go there and fear them at all,” Mullins said.
“We know they are a great side and we know they are a hard team.”
Mullins told the club’s website, www.whufc.com: “It is a good game for us to go there and hit them on the break.
“We have done that to a lot of teams away from home. We look quite good doing it and we know what we can do.
“Who knows? A couple of chances and a bit of luck on the day and hopefully we can nick something.”