Defiant Zola believes in 7th heaven

WEST HAM boss Gianfranco Zola still believes that his team are in pole position to take seventh place in the Premier League this term, despite Saturday s defeat at deadly rivals Spurs, writes DAVE EVANS. Both Tottenham and Fulham closed the gap on the Ham

WEST HAM boss Gianfranco Zola still believes that his team are in pole position to take seventh place in the Premier League this term, despite Saturday's defeat at deadly rivals Spurs, writes DAVE EVANS.

Both Tottenham and Fulham closed the gap on the Hammers at the weekend, but that has not deterred Zola, who is set to be offered a contract extension at Upton Park.

"Of course we are favourites," said the manager after Saturday's 1-0 defeat at White Hart Lane. "We are still three points clear of Spurs and we are going to defend those points with everything we can.

"You could see the team is determined and together, and to be honest, it would be a pity if they don't do it because they give everything in every single game, and that is very good for me."

England international defender Matty Upson was also quick to dispute Tottenham's claims to that seventh place crown - and almost certainly a spot in the new Europa League next season.

"No, without a doubt I wouldn't say they are favourites by any means," insisted the West Ham star.

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"We're three points ahead of them and if you look at the fixtures, they've got some tough games in the next four matches, so we're giving it everything we've got to finish in that seventh spot."

With Fulham just a point behind now after their victory at Manchester City on Sunday, the Hammers may need a positive result at Villa Park on Saturday, something that Zola knows is going to be a tricky proposition.

"Yes, it is going to be tough," he said. "But so is the one after that.

"It is okay, we are in the position where we can go into every single game and give our best without being under much pressure.

"We know Villa will be a difficult game, but it is going to be difficult for them as well."

Zola will hope to have Scott Parker back for Saturday's trip to the Midlands, while Czech international Radoslav Kovac, should also be available.

Kieron Dyer is fully fit, but may have to remain on the bench, especially if Parker returns, while the little Italian may opt to freshen up his attack.

Diego Tristan has played three consecutive matches, but is looking tired, which may mean a start for Freddie Sears or a more forward role for Junior Stanislas.

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