(Reuters) - West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic brushed aside speculation about his future on Thursday, insisting he is focused only on Friday’s Premier League clash with London rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who are second in the table.
British media reports suggested this week that Bilic’s fate could hinge on the results of West Ham’s next two home games, with third-placed Liverpool set to visit the London Stadium a week after title-chasing Tottenham.
West Ham are not yet mathematically safe from relegation following an underwhelming season - they had one win in their past 11 league matches. That leaves them 15th in the table on 39 points with three games left.
“It’s not the time to talk about my situation,” Bilic told a news conference on Thursday. “It’s the time to talk about the club. I‘m very calm and focused on the game.”
Off-field issues and the loss of playmaker Dimitri Payet to Olympique de Marseille in January have compounded West Ham’s woes since leaving Upton Park for the London Stadium, but Bilic said his players were fired up by the prospect of facing Spurs.
“It’s a massive London derby under the lights,” he added. “On one hand, playing so many derbies is a disadvantage, but on the other, your players are more up for the games than for others.”
While West Ham are still looking over their shoulder at the teams below them, Tottenham have their sights set on leaders Chelsea. They go into the game knowing a win will cut the gap at the top to a single point.
Chelsea play second-bottom Middlesbrough on Monday.
In a rare departure for a West Ham manager, Bilic conceded that Spurs were currently the most in-form team in the league and would be top of the table but for the injuries to striker Harry Kane.
”I have nothing but praise for (Tottenham),“ he said. ”I‘m watching them the whole season and I think how did Chelsea make that gap? Then I remember that one period they were a couple of times without Harry Kane.
“That first one they lost or drew a few games that if you are challenging for the title you cannot afford.”
West Ham have also been hurt by injuries, with top scorer Michail Antonio (hamstring) out for the season and striker Andy Carroll, who has been restricted to 18 league appearances this season, a doubt for Friday.
Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru, editing by Larry King