West Ham manager Slaven Bilic has warned his players that winning at Sunderland will be more difficult than beating Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool.
The Hammers have pulled off surprise away victories against all three of those clubs this season and are gunning for their fourth consecutive league win on the road against Sunderland on Saturday.
A nightmare start to the season sees Dick Advocaat’s side sitting at the foot of the Barclays Premier League table after failing to win any of their opening seven matches.
Bilic, however, insists it would be a big mistake to underestimate the Black Cats.
“It is different in the size of the clubs and for West Ham it meant more because we didn’t win at Anfield for 52 years,” Bilic said.
“It’s a bigger story around those games but this game is more difficult than those ones.
“Now everybody around us is expecting us to win that game. That can put us in a situation where we are a little bit relaxed.
“You can be on your toes but not fully aware. If that difference comes we are in trouble. We have to make sure we are the right way in approaching the game.
“Only if we are like we have been in the previous three away games will we have a chance to come back happy.”
West Ham, unbeaten in their last four meetings with Sunderland, are third in the table and have scored the highest number of goals in the division so far.
A 2-1 defeat to Leicester in the Capital One Cup, however, was followed by a 2-2 draw at home to Norwich last weekend, and Bilic wants his team to bring their form against the big clubs to lesser opposition.
“Our three wins and where we got them mean absolutely nothing,” Bilic said.
“If we start to think for a couple of seconds about how we did against Arsenal, Liverpool or Manchester City and think it is going to be easier against Sunderland, we had better stop that before we even start.
“Are we confident? Yes we are. But we are playing a team who have also been unlucky in some of their games. They have to start collecting points.
“We are expecting a tough, tough game on Saturday.”
Defender Angelo Ogbonna is out with a hamstring injury while Winston Reid is doubtful with a hip problem. Andy Carroll has a sore ankle but it is not considered serious and the striker is likely to be available.
Fans will join together this weekend to protest about the high expense of ticket prices in English football. The supporters are calling for a £20 cap on the cost of away tickets.
“Football is not golf or polo for VIPs or for the elite – football is the people’s sport,” Bilic added.
“On the other hand you have clubs building new stadiums for big money and they want their money back so they put ticket prices up.
“For me they should find a balance because this is a mass sport. Football games are not just about the game they are about the atmosphere at the ground. Without fans it’s useless.”