Hitzlsperger: West Ham have confidence now to avoid drop

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The Independent Football

Thomas Hitzlsperger is confident that West Ham will avoid relegation and even thinks a place in the FA Cup final is not beyond the club's grasp after Monday night's fifth-round hammering of Burnley. After six months out with a thigh injury, Hitzlsperger finally made his Hammers debut at Upton Park. The German could not have expected his bow to have gone any better as he opened the scoring with a blistering 25-yard strike to set his team on their way to a 5-1 win.

The east London side have struggled without Hitzlsperger since he was ruled out after picking up the injury in Germany's match against Denmark last August. Despite enjoying good runs in both cup competitions, West Ham have struggled to stay afloat in the Premier League and have spent the majority of the season in the relegation zone.

They sit 19th in the division ahead of Sunday's match against in-form Liverpool, but Hitzlsperger is optimistic about his side's chances of survival. "Our target is to stay in the Premier League. This season has been up and down but we have to try to stay in the league and remain positive," he said.

"I'm really looking forward to the next few months and if I stay fit, which I will, then we have a good chance of staying up because this is a good group and we all fancy our chances."

West Ham have buckled at times this season but Hitzlsperger insists that the squad will be able to deal with the pressure that will come playing against the likes of Stoke, Tottenham and Manchester United in the next six weeks. "If you talk to the teams around us, I think most of them would say we shouldn't be in that position," the 28-year-old said. "We have some good players here. I see it in training but you have to do it when it really matters. The pressure is huge and when you're down near the bottom, it's hard to escape. The quality is there but we needed a boost in confidence which this win has provided."

The midfielder, who left Lazio for Upton Park last summer, tried to remain positive during his lengthy time out. He said: "It was tough when I first found out the injury would take up to six months to heal but I wasn't frustrated. I tried to be positive and professional to get back as quick as possible. That, I think, was the reason why I was able to come back."

The midfielder received a standing ovation from the home support, who have nicknamed him "Der Hammer", when he was replaced after 72 minutes. The nickname was particularly apt given the ferocious pace with which he dispatched his strike and he was delighted to mark his debut with a goal and a man of the match display.

He added: "I have been waiting for this day for a long time and to start off with such a goal and good win like we had, it couldn't have been better."