BT Sport David James has said that the next four league games could be crucial West Ham United's chances of finishing in the European places, and that they should use their performance against an under-strength Liverpool as a prod for them to focus.
The former West Ham and Aston Villa goalkeeper has said if there is a softness to the side then a run against Villa, Southampton, Norwich City and Sunderland is the kind of run that could cost them.
The Hammers have had a fantastic league campaign so far and are currently sitting in sixth position - six points behind Tottenham in the fourth Champions League place.
Three of the four games are against sides that are struggling at the bottom of the table, and are either in or hovering above the relegation zone, while James pointed out the potential difficulty of facing Southampton - who have won each of their last three league games without conceding a goal. Also, during that run of games, West Ham come up against Liverpool again in a replay to decide who will progress to the fifth round of the FA Cup.
James told HITC Sport: "If there is a soft side to West Ham then arguably the next four games could cost them that position.
"I think because of the performance against Liverpool in the cup, that should be a good prod for the West Ham players to use the next four league games as an opportunity to really give themselves a good chance of finishing in those European places.
"Going into the Aston Villa game on the back of the Liverpool game you'd like to think that Slaven Bilic will use the Liverpool game as a prod to remind them that it's an important stage of the season, they're in such a good position at the moment they need to be winning that game."
West Ham are hot favourites for the encounter at the Boleyn Ground given their respective league positions. Aston Villa have won just the two games so far this season, and are 10 points adrift from safety, and in the eyes of many it would be something of an upset if they managed to pull off a victory.
‘Watch West Ham United vs Aston Villa in the Barclays Premier League live on BT Sport 1 from 7:45pm on Tuesday 2 February. Visit btsport.com’