April 19, 2016

With West Ham United saying goodbye to Upton Park and hello to European football, a new era has effectively dawned in east London.

Manager Slaven Bilic pushed all the right buttons with his club last season, guiding the Hammers to a seventh place Premier League finish and a spot in the Europa League.

Bilic's side has been unable to recreate their 2015-16 form in the early stages of the current term, having lost two of their three opening fixtures. But home matches always bring hope and they're aiming to collect three points against Watford at Olympic Stadium on Saturday.

After a season-opening 2-1 loss to Chelsea, the club opened their new stadium with a narrow 1-0 win over Bournemouth before heading into the international break on a sour note following a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Pep Guardiola's Manchester City.

West Ham (1-0-2) fell behind after only seven minutes thanks to a strike from Raheem Sterling. Fernandinho doubled the lead prior to the 20-minute mark. Michail Antonio's 58th-minute strike gave the Hammers some hope, but it was extinguished in added time as Sterling completed his brace to seal the three points.

Despite the defeat, Bilic left the Etihad encouraged with his side's second-half performance.

"You can break it down to two halves of football," he said. "They were much better than us in the first half. They started very well, and not only did they show the quality on the ball which we knew (they had) but they were quicker, more aggressive than us and better on the second balls.

"At half time, I wasn't happy, but I asked the guys to show the character, the spirit, the attitude and mentality which they basically did in the second half. I have praise for the team for the second half performance. It's a shame that we conceded the late goal, but it was a good second half as I said. The first wasn't."

West Ham also managed some decent transfer business before the closure of the summer window, bringing in former Liverpool and Real Madrid defender Alvaro Arbeloa on a one-year deal.

"I am really happy to be here in a great club in a great league," he told the club's official television channel. "I'm really happy to be back in England and, for me, it's a great chance and I'm looking forward to playing with this side.

Watford (0-1-2) are also currently struggling for form while winless in their opening three fixtures and desperate not to let those early troubles spiral out of control.

Walter Mazzarri's boys were simply outclassed by Arsenal in a 3-1 defeat to the Gunners prior to the international hiatus. Santi Cazorla fired home a penalty after nine minutes and Alexis Sanchez doubled the lead before Mesut Ozil plunged the dagger into Watford hearts in first-half stoppage time.Roberto Pereyra pulled one back for Watford in the second half, but it was merely a consolation goal.

"The second half we were good and should have scored more," Mazzarri said. "A lot of players are new so we have to prepare later. The organisational things are still missing and two starting players were out last minute and this really didn't help."

Reinforcements have arrived for Mazzarri ahead of Saturday's clash as the club signed Kenedy from Chelsea on a season-long loan. They also handed a new three-year deal to Adrian Mariappa, who featured for Watford from 2005-12 before departing for Reading and Crystal Palace.

West Ham holds the historical advantage in this fixture, having won 11 of their last 13 home league meetings with Watford. The home side won both games by a two-goal margin last season in this fixture.

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