James Tomkins’ Europa League target within reach for West Ham

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After a comprehensive victory over Premier League strugglers Aston Villa West Ham’s chances of enjoying European football in their maiden season at the Olympic Stadium look solid.

Their 2-0 victory over Remi Garde’s side opened up a five point cushion to their nearest pursuers in the race for a top six finish.

Hammers defender James Tomkins was quick to point out that targets have changed on the back of the bright start under Slaven Bilic this season.

“We want to finish as high as we can. I said ‘top 10’ earlier in the season but realistically we’re looking higher,” he told the Evening Standard.

“Europe is a realistic option. You look at Leicester and see what they’re doing and we know we have as good players as they have.”

They cannot rest on their laurels though, with the weekend’s fixture against Southampton likely to be key in the race for the Europa League places.

The Londoners are 19/4 underdogs for their visit to St Mary’s Stadium, a price that looks huge considering they have won four of their last six in the top-flight, and have tasted defeat just once since November 23.

However, Ronald Koeman’s men will provide a stern test, with the Saints keeping clean sheets in their last four fixture, but maintaining that momentum is key for Tomkins.

“We have to build on what we’ve got and keep our form going. We’re creating a gap now between us and Southampton, whom we play on Saturday,” he explained.

Victory on the south coast could see the east Londoners move closer to an even bigger achievement in the league, and to within two points of the Champions League places.

While a top four finish may seem far-fetched at the moment, the performance of the table-topping Foxes this year shows that any side can surprise you in the Premier League.

Bilic’s men were shortened to 14/1 from 25/1 to finish in the Champions League spots after their success under the lights on Tuesday, and could shorten further yet.

After their clash with Southampton the Hammers face fixtures against Norwich and Sunderland, two games in which victory will be expected from the Irons faithful.

Record a decent return from the three league fixtures directly ahead of them and Tomkins’ belief of achieving a European spot might just be rewarded at the end of the season.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Ben Stones

Ladbrokes News’ equine expert, Ben likes nothing more than studying the form to pick out a winner or two for our readers. A Journalism and Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester, Ben has previously written for a number of football and racing blogs and websites, as well as contributing to the sports pages of his home-town newspaper.