Sam Allardyce reckons his struggling West Ham United can defy the odds with a shock Capital Cup semi-final win against hot favourites Manchester City
A 5-0 FA Cup thrashing by Sky Bet Championship team Nottingham Forest is about as bad a precursor as you can get to the first leg of a Capital One Cup Semi-Final away to the favourites for the Premier League title.
But that’s the reality facing West Ham United, the Premier League’s second-from-bottom team, as they prepare for a trip to Manchester City, second from top – who are also clear favourites to lift the Capital One Cup following Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat at Sunderland in Tuesday’s first leg of the other last four tie.
Hammers boss Sam Allardyce, however, is defiant in the task facing them.
“We are underdogs and nobody gives us a chance – but we believe we can get to Wembley,” said the 59-year-old.
Allardyce’s team have already lost 3-1 at home in the league to City this season, who are even more devastating at their own Etihad Stadium. Maneul Pellegrini’s side have won 13 of 14 League and Cup home matches during 2013/14, scoring 53 goals.
And with 11 wins in a 13-match unbeaten home and away run, City’s form looks ominous for a Hammers side whose last 13 League and Cup games have brought eight defeats and only two wins. The last of those victories was a 2-1 triumph at Tottenham Hotspur in last month’s Quarter-Final of the Capital One Cup.
The formbook shows that the odds are stacked heavily in the hosts’ favour, but that has not dimmed the positivity of Allardyce as he looks ahead to Wednesday evening’s first leg.
The experienced manager, who led his team to the Premier League via the Championship Play-Offs two seasons ago, is further hampered by a horrendous injury list.
“I have to get a fresh team out to compete against as free-scoring a side in the Premier League as there is,” Allardyce simply stated.
“We have to field a team that has competed exceptionally well in this Cup competition, no more so than in the last round versus Tottenham.
“We have to be defensively resilient and take full advantage of the chances that we can make. We don’t have to beat them, we have to come back home with something realistic to try and beat them here.”
Defying those odds to reach Wembley would not only give West Ham a massive boost, but also relieve the pressure on Allardyce.
This week the Hammers manager has been given the backing of the club’s hierarchy, but he knows only too well the consequences of a prolonged poor run that brings an ever-increasing fear of relegation.
“We all know what happens if you don’t get results as a manager,” he added.
“I’m pushing the club forward with the help of everybody here, from top to bottom.
“We don’t have the same pressures [in the Capital One Cup] as in the Premier League. Our focus now is Wembley. We’re not thinking about the Premier League until after Wednesday night – for now we’re focusing on that fantastic arena.”