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Friday, March 12, 2010
Zola targets ten more points to avoid relegation

West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola believes his team need ten more points to beat the drop - and is challenging his players to upset the form book and pick three of them up at former club Chelsea on Saturday.

The Hammers' disappointing 2-1 home defeat to Bolton last weekend leaves them on 27 points, three above the Premier League relegation zone with ten matches remaining.

With their next two games coming away at title challengers Chelsea and Arsenal, many believe it will be West Ham's final eight fixtures which will determine whether they reach the 37-point mark demanded by Zola.

But the Italian sees no reason why the recovery following the loss to Bolton cannot start at Stamford Bridge, a ground where he served Chelsea with distinction between 1996 and 2003.

"Personally, I think 37 should make it for us,'' Zola said, when asked how many points his team will need to secure their top-flight status. Some people are saying less, but I want to be sure that 37 will be a good target for us.

"It will be fantastic for me to win at Stamford Bridge. The situation is that we need those points. For me and my team, I think it will be a big boost forward. I think we have enough quality here to do it. But we have to improve our consistency.''

Zola will make changes to his team, in terms of both preparation and personnel, for the Chelsea match. Fit-again centre-back Danny Gabbidon is set to come into the line-up in place of James Tomkins, who was arguably at fault for both goals West Ham conceded against Bolton.

England striker Carlton Cole could start up front on his own, with Zola reverting to a 4-5-1 formation as he looks to improve his side's dreadful away record this season.

Zola was unhappy with the way the Hammers started against Bolton, who scored both their goals in the opening 16 minutes, and is demanding his players switch on from the first whistle.

"It's important in the Premier League that you start the game very well because it really dictates the result,'' he said. "The way we started against Bolton, it wasn't good enough. They were better prepared than us and they won the game. That was a big lesson.

"Tomorrow it's going to be important to start properly. And another important thing is going to be the organisation, the desire to be a team and play more like a team. It's something in my opinion against Bolton we didn't do very well. That will be vital.''

In an online poll on Chelsea's website in 2003, Zola was voted the club's greatest ever player. He scored 80 goals in 312 matches for the Blues and is still a firm fans' favourite in west London.

When Zola returned to Stamford Bridge last season as West Ham boss - in December 2008 - he did not celebrate when Craig Bellamy opened the scoring for the visitors in a 1-1 draw.

Given his side's current predicament at the wrong end of the table, he may change tack should the Hammers take the lead tomorrow.

"Let's score first and then we will see!'' he said. "It's a lot about the moment. That doesn't mean I wasn't pleased that we scored a goal. That's was just the way I wanted to express the moment.

"I have a lot of people at Chelsea who are special to me. I always care and treat them with respect. It's a place where there are lots of memories for me. Every time I go back, it's a pleasure. But my commitment to West Ham is massive and total.''

With Julien Faubert ruled out with a hamstring injury, Jonathan Spector could be switched from left-back to right-back, with Swiss youngster Fabio Daprela coming in as a replacement.




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