Dinos Mavropanos is convinced the Hammers can clinch qualification for the UEFA Europa League knockout stages. A win will see us through to at the very least the post-Christmas play-off round against a third-place UEFA Champions League group-stage finisher, and move within a point of securing top spot with a draw against Germans SC Freiburg on matchday six.
Mavropanos, made his Hammers debut Backa in September, the game ending in a 3-1 win for the home side and he said: “It was nice to play my first game at home on a European night, so it was good to start and make my debut that night. I had one or two chances from corners and free-kicks to score but unfortunately I didn’t make it.
“Of course, scoring is not the first thing I am thinking about because I am a defender, but I am hoping it will happen. Every single set piece James [Ward-Prowse] takes is exactly where the ball has to go, so it gives us an advantage to score every time we get a set piece.
“It’s going to be a tough game, but we can get the win. It’s on us. If we are how we have to be, then we can win the game. It’s important for us to finish top of the table as it gives us better possibilities, potentially a better knockout game, so it’s important to finish strongly and win on Thursday.”
The Irons have won four of their previous five matches in all competitions, including their last two in the Premier League after falling behind to both Nottingham Forest and Burnley, despite perhaps not playing their best football in possession. Mavro said sometimes you have to accept that performance levels may not match the end results.
He added: “You can see the quality of the players and of course the results, you can see we have a lot of potential to get even better because the players are at a high level, so if we work harder we can get better.
“It’s normal during a tough period that you can have games where you don’t produce the best performances, but the results at the end are the most important. If you don’t play that well and still get the wins, it shows the quality in the squad.
“It depends on the player, as for some it doesn’t take them that long and others take a few weeks, but everyone here has adapted quickly.”
Mavropanos mentioned Ward-Prowse’s deliveries as a big threat to their opponents, but it was two other players who conjured Saturday’s Premier League win at Burnley – teenage substitute Divin Mubama and Ghana attacker Mohammed Kudus.
He said: “It’s really nice to watch Divin score although of course Mubama’s late intervention was later credited as a Dara O’Shea own-goal.
“I think he wanted it a lot and I think it’s important for him that he came on and helped score an important goal for the team. He has a lot of qualities. He likes to run in behind and also have the ball into his feet and his finishing is also very good. He’s a good player and he works really hard. It’s not only about the age. The quality is there and it’s always good to play against him in training.