West Ham manager David Moyes has praised his players for earning qualification from their Europa League group with a first-place finish a real possibility.
The Hammers sit top of Group H above Dinamo Zagreb, Genk and Rapid Vienna – who they face on Thursday evening.
A win in Austria will secure top spot in their group, meaning the Irons will avoid a Champions League side in the first knockout round.
Moyes set the target of Europa League football after Christmas and has credited his players for already meeting the objective with two games to spare.
“Everybody talks about us being one of the favourites. But when you see the Champions League, I watched the games last night, looking at the teams who could finish third and drop into the Europa League, it becomes a completely different competition.
“I just wanted European football after Christmas time, I thought that would be progress for West Ham. I have to give credit to the whole squad for how they navigated the early games.”
On team news for Thursday’s match, Moyes said: “Mich’s [Michail Antonio] not here. We chose not to bring him.
“Apart from that, only Lukasz [Fabianski] isn’t here. You’re well aware of where we are. We’ll be strong but we know that we’ve got some big games coming up and a really busy schedule.”
Meanwhile, Alan Hutton has warned West Ham about signing too many Czech players amidst rumours linking the Londoners with Sparta Prague’s Adam Hlozek.
“Definitely. I think you have to be careful,” he told Football Insider when asked if having several players from the same background could have a negative effect on the dressing room.
“On one hand, another player coming over to a foreign country and settling down, if you’ve got someone that you know, has done it before, of course it helps.
“But when you start going four, five, six players, then it may become a problem. I’m not saying that it always does but there’s a possibility that it can.
“You distance yourself from other players because you’ve got people you feel familiar with.”