West Ham manager Slaven Bilic says his squad is braced for a “special game” as they prepare for Sunday’s London derby at Tottenham.
The Hammers travel to White Hart Lane separated only on goal difference with their neighbours after an impressive start to the season.
West Ham, sixth in the table, will be without the services of their star man Dimitri Payet however, after the French international was sidelined for three months with an ankle injury.
Bilic described the 28-year-old as “irreplaceable”, but he believes his team is still well-equipped to deal with the threat of Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
“It is a special game,” said Bilic ahead of Sunday’s Barclays Premier League clash. “I know it’s a cliche, but there are some games that are more special for the fans. That’s why they are derbies and this one is one of them.
“Some are saying it is like the game of the season for West Ham. I wouldn’t call it that, but it is special and we are looking forward to it.
“You can feel it in the camp these last few days. It is like we are waiting for a big game.”
West Ham have already beaten Arsenal and Chelsea this season, and Bilic is optimistic his side will be able to add another of their London rivals to that impressive list of scalps.
“We are confident now because we know whoever we play we have a chance,” Bilic, who made his debut as a West Ham player in a 1-0 win at Spurs in 1996, added.
“We will approach the game with that knowledge that if we are on top of our game we have a good chance.
“For the fans it would be nice if we finish above them but if you ask me if I am happy to finish ninth and they are 10th, Arsenal are 11th, and Chelsea 12th, I would rather finish second and one of them finish as champions.”
West Ham have not lost on their last three visits to Tottenham. They won in the Premier League and League Cup two seasons ago, while they secured a 2-2 draw last term.
But while Bilic says he has no particular personal animosity towards Spurs, he understands the importance of the match to both sets of supporters.
“I don’t feel any dislike towards Spurs, no”, Bilic added. “But they are a London club. It means a lot to the fans because you have all West Ham fans working with Spurs fans.
“It is a good thing when you win because you can’t wait to go to work and tease them or whatever. If you lose, it’s not very pleasant.
“In my apartment, we are all West Ham. I don’t think my dogs are Spurs fans, but I will check it. This morning they looked at me a little bit differently.”
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