After such a brilliant performance against Manchester United at the old Boleyn, it may seem like an anti-climax for the up-coming game against Stoke.

Paradoxically, the outcome of our last game may be even more relevant for our fortunes next season.

To guarantee a top six finish a win is required, since there is every chance that Southampton will win against a weakened Crystal Palace side, with their thoughts firmly on the FA Cup Final next weekend.

Should we lose, and end up in 7th, all is not lost, since a Manchester United win in the FA Cup would still allow us qualify for the Europa League.

However, the charm of the FA Cup ignites the underdog to play out of their boots, given the right mood and conditions. A rested Crystal Palace team will be no easy game for Man United, who have shown an alarming vulnerability in defence this season.

One might reasonably argue that whatever the outcome is, we have performed sufficiently well without Europa League football this season. I beg to disagree!

We have played so well this season, that it would only be fitting for our fabulous team to be given an early bonus of Europa League qualification. Then you might ask, what is the big deal of finishing 6th, and having to start in the third qualifying stage.

The bottom line is the positive psychological effects of heading off on holidays and pre-season training, with a big Europa League carrot waiting upon your return.

There is another factor that is of equal, if not greater significance in reaching the Europa League.

You don’t have to be a genius to realise that West Ham is a club with serious intentions of reaching and maintaining top-class status within England and Europe.

We are hoping to attract one or two top class strikers as well as a recognised right-back. While we have the Olympic Stadium and while we have Payet, all of the aforementioned players will be looking to show their wares in European competition, especially those players with ambitions of playing at international level.

Of course, their first preference may be the desire of Champions League football, but the chance of playing under the astute management of Slaven Bilic, the presence of Payet and so many other outstanding squad members, plus the bonus of playing in front of 60,000 supporters, may well compensate for that. In addition, there is every chance that within the next couple of seasons, Champions League football could be a definite reality.

Taking all these factors into account, it must surely influence of Slav to pull out all stops for a final win.

Again, I stress the importance of starting off with the confidence we showed in the first 25-30 minutes against Man United; had we taken some relatively easy chances, we would have been up 3-0.

Thus, a 4-3-3 starting line up, with Sakho as centre-forward, Payet as second striker/wing, and Antonio on the right, would frighten any defence!

In midfield, I’d start with Lanzini, Noble, and Kouyate, with Creswell, Ogbonna, Reid, and Tomkins as the back four.

In addition, we have the healthy option of using Carroll, Valencia, Obiang, Song, and Collins as ‘fresh legs’ for those starting players who might be showing some of the effects of a long, hard season.

My biggest concern is the temptation to once again start Antonio at right-back – surely he must start on the wing! We really need the goals, and make no mistake, he can provide them!

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