Season will be defined by festive fixture list - Upson
PUBLISHED: 10:59 11 December 2008 | UPDATED: 13:52 05 October 2010
Matthew Upson has warned that West Ham's hopes of Premier League survival could hinge on their results in four key clashes over the Christmas period
By JONATHAN CLEGG
MATTHEW UPSON has warned that West Ham's hopes of Premier League survival could hinge on their results in four key clashes over the Christmas period.
The Hammers are just two places above the relegation zone following Monday night's derby defeat by Tottenham, which dropped the club into 16th place in the table after they were leapfrogged by their London rivals.
Now they embark on a daunting run of four games in 14 days that could define their season, beginning with a trip to Chelsea on Sunday
The Hammers also face in-form Aston Villa at Upton Park next weekend and a visit to Portsmouth on Boxing Day before a key clash with potential relegation rivals Stoke on December 28.
England defender Upson admits that the club must hit form in those four fixtures - or risk being cut adrift in the drop zone.
He said: "This period building up to Christmas and through Christmas is really going to put distance between teams who are looking good and heading for the top and those who are going to be at the bottom of the table.
"There are a lot of teams right in the thick of it so the next few games are going to be an important run of results for us. We have to work hard and stick to what we believe in and grind out some results."
West Ham will be heavy underdogs in the first of those fixtures when
they travel to Stamford Bridge this weekend.
Chelsea have six straight wins against the Hammers, who have failed to take a point from the Blues since substitute Paolo Di Canio scored the winner at Upton Park in May 2003.
The match will also mark a return to west London for Hammers boss Gianfranco Zola and assistant Steve Clarke.
Zola was voted Chelsea's best every player in 2003 while Clarke, the Italian's No2, enjoyed a 21-year association with the club before he was persuaded to become Zola's deputy at Upton Park in September.
Upson reveals that the significance of the match for the two men has not been lost on West Ham's players, who are determined to secure a positive result for the club's management team.
"Chelsea is definitely a game we want," Upson said. "It's massive for the manager and we'd like to go there and do it for him.
"It's a huge game and the way we've been playing defensively, our organisation has been good, so there's no reason why we can't get anything.
"We've been solid enough to go to places like that and get something from the game.
"So I've got belief that we can do that and I'm sure the players and the manager do too.