West Ham’s first home opponents of the season, Leicester City “are on fire” starting the new season like they finished the old, according to Irons manager Slaven Bilic.
The Foxes secured three points with a stylish 4-2 victory against Sunderland, their new manager Claudio Ranieri making an immediate impact.
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Ahead, of the match on Saturday, August 15, Bilic said: “I watched that game twice and they played really good football so they are confident – but we are confident also after a good result last week.
“We are playing at home but it’s going to be hard – but every Premiership game is hard.”
Asked about Ranieri’s nickname as the “Tinkerman”, the Bilic said the Italian could only make a marginal impact.
“He’s a great manager with a lot of experience and a lot of success but nothing is going to change the way they are playing.
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“He can change the formation, he can tell them to wait or press us higher but he can’t change the DNA of the players, their qualities or their weaknesses.
“When they get the ball they have pace upfront and they have pace and skill on the sides and they have good delivery, not only from set pieces but from open play.
“You don’t have to be sloppy for them to harm you but if you are sloppy then you have absolutely no chance. But if you are good, if you concentrate, if you are prepared then you have a chance and, of course, we want to stop them or limit the number of occasions they are going to be in a good situation. We are going to try to win the game.”
Ranieri apparently played Kasabian before the opening match to inspire his players.
“Kasabian – a good choice,” mused Bilic, who himself was in rock band Rawbau. “If [the victory] was because of Kasabian then I would not go to the training pitch I would go to the music shop and buy all of their CDs.”
Bilic was asked repeatedly at a pre-match press conference about 16-year-old Reece Oxford, who made such a confident and mature debut in West Ham’s 2-0 win away at Arsenal. Would he be a first team regular?
Bilic said: “We have to be very cautious with the boy. He’s only 16. No matter how mature he is we have to manage him on and especially off the pitch with all eyes open.
“Is he going to be a regular? He’s a first team player, a first squad player of course he’s going to have his ups and downs and we’re going to protect him because he’s only young.
“The amount of the games and minutes he plays depends on how he plays and trains, and how the guys playing in the same position are going to do. I can’t predict that.”
After a slew of questions about the teenager, Bilic said: “It would be the best for everybody to stop talking about Reece Oxford – for him, definitely, but also for West Ham.”
West Ham v Leicester City, Saturday, 3pm