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Jul 292013

Razvan RatThe start of the season always bring with it boundless optimism among fans hoping this year will be their year.

The break from football allows everyone to forget how good – or bad – their team actually is and with every side starting on zero points, why couldn’t it be your season?

That optimism also tends to spread to the players, who talk up their chances of success before the onset of autumn drags them back down to reality.

Razvan Rat is one such player, who believes the Hammers can qualify for Europe this season.

Some may be laughing at that statement, but Rat can’t be criticised for talking the team up in media interviews – he was hardly going to be negative in front of the cameras, especially as he is a new signing.

The fact Swansea and Wigan will be playing Europa League football this year also shows that Rat’s belief may not be misplaced; though their places in continental competition were secured via cup competitions rather than league finishes.

That appears to be West Ham’s best chance of reaching Europe too as the top half of the Premier League looks pretty sewn up.

Apart from United, City, Arsenal and Chelsea, you have Spurs, Liverpool and Everton competing for a top six place, teams with better squads and resources than the Hammers (well, perhaps except eternally skint Everton).

The best Sam Allardyce can realistically hope for is eighth, which would still represent the club’s best finish since 2002. A good start is essential if that ambition is to be achieved and would in turn aid a cup run.

The knock-out competitions often get shelved if a team is battling relegation (Wigan apart, though look what happened to them) so if the Hammers are comfortable in mid-table then they can have a real go at the cups. Last season showed that shocks do happen and West Ham certainly have the players to beat anyone on their day.

Rat may have been pandering to the cameras with his bold pre-season prediction but with a good start, some luck with injuries and a kind cup draw, it may not be so unachievable after all.

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