Paul Merson backs West Ham for top four by 2019

Upton Park

The Hammers finished seventh in the Premier League last term.

Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson has suggested that West Ham United will qualify for the Champions League by 2019.

The Hammers have come a long way under manager Slaven Bilic and they will compete in the Europa League qualifying rounds next season after Manchester United won the FA Cup.

They could have even finished in the top four this past season after putting up a mighty fine bid, but an inconsistent end to the 2015-16 campaign saw the Irons' Champions League aspirations fizzle out somewhat.

Nevertheless, Merson says that West Ham - who move to the Olympic Stadium next season after 112 years at the Boleyn Ground - will rub shoulders with Europe's elite in the coming years.

Asked on Sky Sports' Fantasy Football podcast whether West Ham would qualify for the Champions League next year, Merson replied: "Within the next three years."

Merson's prediction is bold to say the least, given how much the landscape of the Premier League is set to change.

Not only might Chelsea and Manchester City grow much stronger under the guidance of Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, but the Red Devils will have Jose Mourinho managing them next term according to BBC.

West Ham's top-four bid this past season was admirable, but realistically it will be extremely difficult for Bilic and co to come that close again in the coming years.

Of course, Liverpool, under Jurgen Klopp, will also surely be stronger next time around and it remains to be seen if the East Londoners will be able to compete.

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch