In-form West Ham ‘confident to go toe-to-toe’ with Premier League’s biggest teams, says Ben Johnson

Ben Johnson says West Ham are brimming with confidence as they head into a run of fixtures which could define their season.

The Hammers are up to fifth, above champions Liverpool, after a 3-0 win over Sheffield United on Monday evening.

Next up is a visit from London rivals Tottenham followed by a trip to title favourites Manchester City, and then fixtures against Leeds, Manchester United and Arsenal.

READ MORE: Premier League fixtures and table – all matches by date and kick-off time

But 21-year-old wing-back Johnson insists there is nothing to fear as West Ham look to maintain their unlikely bid for a Champions League spot.

“Even when I wasn’t in the team a couple of years ago we went to Manchester United and lost 2-1, but we should have won the game,” said Johnson.

“Since then we’ve always played well against the big teams. Our problem has been playing against the teams who are around us, playing as a top side and the opposition would sit back and make us play.

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“That is when we would struggle but now our confidence is growing with each and every game, as you collect points you go into every game with more confidence and with an extra buzz.

“We’re confident to go toe-to-toe with teams and the manager has us set up that we’ll never go out to get a draw.”

Johnson revealed manager David Moyes’ fitness regime has worked wonders following the malaise at the club under previous boss Manuel Pellegrini.

“Starting when the first lockdown happened, when we were coming back the manager was always onto us about the shape we were coming back in and the way we ran over the lockdown,” Johnson added.

READ MORE: Are Chelsea best-equipped to win the Champions League?

“All the fitness coaches have been top drawer for us in our individual plans. We had to avoid relegation last season so we had a massive incentive, we were playing out of our skin and we’ve continued with that form.

“This season from game number one you don’t expect to be where we are, if someone had said we’d be here you’d bite their hand off, but with the players we have – and I know the way we train – it’s not much of a surprise. Being involved with the big boys is a really good feeling.”

Goals from Declan Rice – from the penalty spot – Issa Diop and Ryan Fredericks condemned basement side United to another defeat.

“There is only us who can lift us,” said manager Chris Wilder. “There’s not going to be 3,000 punters behind the goal on Saturday at Fulham, so we can’t rely on that.

“I’m not so sure if we carry on the results that they would be behind us anyway, and rightly so, so we have to take that criticism fair and square on the chin.

“We have had a lot of credit in the bank but that’s running thin in my opinion.”

PA

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