west ham united v everton

Moyes predicts tight relegation scrap

November 7, 2008

David Moyes fears the fiercest battle yet to avoid relegation is starting to unfold in the Premier League.

Everton, with successive wins, find themselves in seventh, their highest position of the season. But the gap between them and bottom club Spurs is just six points.

With promoted clubs Hull and Stoke making unexpectedly good starts to the campaign, the obvious candidates for the drop are not as clear as in previous campaigns.

And with big clubs like Newcastle and Spurs starting to pull themselves together after dreadful starts to the season, three quarters of the division are in the battle to stay up already.

And that includes West Ham, Everton's hosts on Saturday.

Moyes said: "For some while we were down at the wrong end, and we have only just forced our way up the table, so it is not easy.

"There are a lot of teams very close together, so it shows how tough the Premier League is this season, there is very little between the sides and I am just thankful we have picked up seven points in a week.

"We have not got back to the levels of last season, that is what we are striving to do. We know the standards we set and that is still the target.''

Everton will be without suspended record signing Marouane Fellaini at Upton Park, while Moyes has injury doubts over striker Ayegbeni Yakubu (heel)and midfielder Steven Pienaar (knee).

Everton won twice in a week at West Ham last term, in the Carling Cup and the Premier League, and those victories that set them up for the rest of a season which saw them clinch fifth spot.

Now Moyes says: "It is a tight Premier League, a couple of wins takes you up to where we are at seventh, but a couple of defeats sends you right back down again.

"The gap between us and the bottom club is very small, a lot of clubs are in the same position and it makes for a very difficult division to judge. We have taken seven points from nine in three games, and we just have to progress. We have to look after ourselves.

"I think a lot of teams will be involved in the relegation battle. We have seen a few teams down at the bottom picking up points that nobody expected. We have won a couple, but then so have several sides at the bottom. The situation has been turned on it's head again.

"I don't know how this will work out, and what points total people will need. Over the years it was said that it was 40 points for safety, but it was lower than that last season.

"It is very difficult to judge, but at the moment things are very tight.''

Moyes, meanwhile, has backed Hammers boss Gianfranco Zola, who has already been through a tough run of results, to make a success of the job.

"West Ham have a different manager in Gianfranco Zola and several new players. We have new players, too, so nothing can be read into what happened last time,'' he said.

"Zola was one of the best ever imports. He was class, but a judgement on whether you were a great player has as much to do with how you conduct yourself off the field as much as the football you produce on it.

"Zola did all that. That is why so many people have such good things to say about him. I only know the player from what I saw. He was very good. He can also now become a good manager.

"He will enjoy the challenge. He has picked up some ideas from being the Italian under-21 coach, and he has standards from when he was a player. All that together can make him a good manager in the future.''