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West Ham boss Slaven Bilic targets league double over mighty Manchester City

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Slaven Bilic has hailed Manchester City as the best team in England but the West Ham manager is optimistic his team can beat the Barclays Premier League heavyweights for the second time this season.

Manuel Pellegrini's side, who sent out a warning to their rivals with a thumping 4-0 victory against Crystal Palace in their last outing, head to the Boleyn Ground for Saturday's tea-time kick-off.

And City, one point adrift of league leaders Arsenal, will be looking to avenge their surprise 2-1 defeat against West Ham at the Etihad Stadium back in September.

But while Bilic believes Pellegrini has at his disposal the greatest squad in the land, he is hopeful West Ham can continue their impressive record against the established big teams this season.

Bilic, who has overseen victories against Arsenal, Chelsea, City and twice against Liverpool already this season, said: "We have the confidence but we know we have to be on top of our game.

"We have done it before, so we don't have to dream to do something that other clubs have done."

City, who invested heavily in the summer with Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne both arriving in big-money deals, have endured a stuttering campaign with Pellegrini coming under increasing pressure after Pep Guardiola announced he is to leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season.

But Bilic believes the former Real Madrid and Malaga manager is dealing admirably with speculation surrounding his future.

"If you are the Manchester City manager then the pressure comes with the territory," Bilic added.

Pellegrini will be able to call on the services of star striker Sergio Aguero for his side's trip to West Ham. The Argentinian has struggled for form and fitness this term, but four goals in his last five appearances, including two against Palace last Saturday, suggests he is returning to something near his best.

"Aguero is back on form and for me he is definitely of the top five strikers in the world," Bilic said.

"They are definitely one of the favourites to win the league, but like other big teams they are also not that consistent which is not their failure as it is not only them, but all the big clubs which shows that the smaller clubs have closed the gap."

James Tomkins is an injury doubt for West Ham after suffering a knock in the 2-1 defeat against Newcastle and faces a late fitness test.

Joey O'Brien is back in contention after recovering from a long-term injury, but Andy Carroll (hamstring), Diafra Sakho and Manuel Lanzini (both thigh) remain sidelined.

City manager Pellegrini has challenged his players to underline their title credentials at West Ham.

City are very much in the title race, currently lying third in the table and only trailing second-placed Leicester and leaders Arsenal by a point.

But their results have been inconsistent, with those registered on the road particularly troubling for Pellegrini, the Blues winning only one of their past seven away league games.

Pellegrini said: "We must try to arrive as soon as we can at the top of the table. It is not easy but we must try to demonstrate why we are fighting for the title.

"It is a difficult game because we are playing against a very good team that beat us at home at the beginning of the season.

"As always, I hope we are going to go for three points, and for that we need the personality to go there and play well. I think our mentality always is to be an attacking team."

City have midfielder Fernandinho, missing for the last three games due to a muscle injury, available for Saturday's contest.

Aleksandar Kolarov has been ruled out after coming off in the Crystal Palace win with a calf problem, joining fellow defenders Eliaquim Mangala (hamstring) and Vincent Kompany (calf), plus midfielder Samir Nasri (hamstring) and striker Wilfried Bony (calf), on the sidelines.

Pellegrini hopes to have Kolarov and Bony back working with the squad next week, and said of skipper Kompany: "Vincent is seeing different specialists to try to know more about his injury.

"He will start working I hope next week, but he has a couple of weeks more."


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