Slaven Bilic has hailed Manchester City as the best team in England but the West Ham manager is optimistic his team can beat the Barclays Premier League heavyweights for the second time this season.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side, who sent out a warning to their rivals with a thumping 4-0 victory against Crystal Palace in their last outing, head to the Boleyn Ground for Saturday’s tea-time kick-off.
And City, one point adrift of league leaders Arsenal, will be looking to avenge their surprise 2-1 defeat against West Ham at the Etihad Stadium back in September.
But while Bilic believes Pellegrini has at his disposal the greatest squad in the land, he is hopeful West Ham can continue their impressive record against the established big teams this season with another scalp on Saturday.
Bilic, who has overseen victories against Arsenal, Chelsea, City and twice against Liverpool already this season, said: “We have the confidence but we know we have to be on top of our game.
“We have done it before, so we don’t have to dream to do something that other clubs have done. We have done it this season – and with the greatest respect to them as I really believe they are the best side in England – we are playing at home. We have been playing really well at home. Our last game (at home in the Premier League) was against Liverpool and we beat them 2-0 and we played really well.”
Bilic on Pellegrini and Aguero
City, who invested heavily in the summer with Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne both arriving in big-money deals, have endured a stuttering campaign with Pellegrini coming under increasing pressure after Pep Guardiola announced he is to leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season.
But Bilic believes the former Real Madrid and Malaga manager is dealing admirably with speculation surrounding his future.
“If you are the Manchester City manager than the pressure comes with the territory,” Bilic added.
“But he is handling that pressure and that situation with ease. He is so strong mentally and so experienced that he is above the situation.”
Pellegrini will be able to call on the services of star striker Sergio Aguero for his side’s trip to West Ham. The Argentinian has struggled for form and fitness this term, but four goals in his last five appearances, including two against Palace last Saturday, suggests he is returning to something near his best.
“Aguero is back on form and for me he is definitely of the top five strikers in the world,” Bilic said.
“He wasn’t out of form, but he was injured and he also needed a few games to get back. But he is unbelievable. He is quick, he is lethal, he is very clever and very patient in the box and his movement is unbelievable. If you add to that the service from Yaya Toure, David Silva and De Bruyne, they have amazing quality.
“They are definitely one of the favourites to win the league, but like other big teams they are also not that consistent which is not their failure as it is not only them, but all the big clubs which shows that the smaller clubs have closed the gap.”