LONDON: David Moyes has done his best to contain the excitement over West Ham United's unlikely top-four push but with seven games to go he is now prepared to admit they could do it.
Moyes takes his fourth-placed team to Newcastle United on Saturday when a victory would push the Hammers into third spot.
Their next game is then against rivals Chelsea but after that their run-in looks promising and belief is growing that West Ham, who have not finished in the top four in the top-flight since 1986, are on the cusp of something incredible.
"This is the third time this season we have gone fourth, I think, and when you are beginning to touch it you start to think we can do it," Moyes, who is in his second stint as West Ham manager, told reporters on Friday.
"Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham, Everton are all teams that can touch us. We have seven to go I have my targets and the players know what we need to do.
"I said to the staff you don't get many opportunities to do it so we have a chance but I know that we are not favourites with the bookies."
West Ham have endured a rollercoaster ride in their last three games, having led 3-0 in each. They ended up drawing 3-3 with Arsenal but hung on to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City 3-2.
They have 55 points from 31 games, one more than Chelsea who are in FA Cup semi-final action this weekend, three better off than Liverpool, six clear of Spurs and seven ahead of Everton, who have a game in hand.
West Ham may never have a better chance to break into the top four and Moyes said he would now be disappointed if they don't make it into Europe.
"Of course, I would be," the former Everton and Manchester United manager said. "We are competing really well and we are trying to keep putting on shows and pulling out results.
"But I am not putting expectations that we are going to make the Champions League as that is not fair on the players who people probably thought would be just outside the bottom three.
"But deep down if we do not keep pushing the other teams hard we would be disappointed."
West Ham will have to sustain their challenge without England midfielder Declan Rice who is sidelined with a knee problem, although the news on his recovery is better. They are also without injured striker Michail Antonio.
"Declan is doing really well but it is only gym-based work right now," Moyes said. "No time frame on it but hopefully both can make a contribution before the end of the season."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)