Npower Championship promotion contenders: West Ham

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West Ham concluded their pre-season preparations with an impressive win over Real Zaragoza and, unsurprisingly, approach the imminent Npower Championship campaign as the bookies' favourites for promotion.

The Hammers triumphed 2-0 over the Spanish outfit on Saturday, thanks to goals from new signing Matt Taylor and Academy product Freddie Sears to further stake their claims as title-winning candidates with just five days to go to the big kick off.

Pre-season initially began relatively sluggishly for the east Londoners, with defeats to both Young Boys and FC Basel during a training camp in Switzerland.

But they have since taken the notable scalps of FC Copenhagen and, latterly, Zaragoza - without conceding a goal - as well Sam Allardyce bolstering his squad with Kevin Nolan, Abdoulaye Faye, Joey O'Brien and Taylor.

Big Sam is certainly happy with what has seen so far - with the clean sheets a particular positive - and is now looking forward to a return to competitive action against Cardiff on Sunday.

"Our efforts have all been to get us to this point," he said. "I know we will not be the finished article yet but the aim is to make sure we are ready to go next weekend. We will then look to improve with every passing week.

"While we are on a good unbeaten run and I am happy with four successive clean sheets, pre-season is not about results. The only way to judge if it has been a good summer will be after we have completed our first ten league games."

One thing the Hammers have been lacking during pre-season thus far is firepower, and co-chairman David Gold expects another striker to be added to the ranks before the end of the transfer window.

"I can say for certain that we will at least bring in another striker," he said. "We will not leave a stone unturned to get the players Sam wants, as was the case with those we have brought in already."

Reading's Shane Long is a reported target and, should the Republic of Ireland international move to Upton Park, the odds of promotion will surely be slashed even more.

Promotion odds: 6/4

Odds to win title: 9/2

Matt Taylor
West Ham United
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