Nigel Pearson has warned his Watford players not to get caught up in the occasion when they face West Ham in a critical relegation scrap on Friday night.

The two teams sit level on 34 points just above the bottom three, and victory for either could all-but secure their survival. Defeat, however, would leave them vulnerable to Bournemouth and Aston Villa below.

"On the face of it there's an awful lot of riding on it, but it's also important that our players are able to go out there and free themselves up and play," Pearson said.

"When you're under pressure that can certainly affect lots of different aspects of performance, but collectively we've shown a real resilience.

"The emphasis for tomorrow will be that we need to perform well as a team. We need to be calm enough but that doesn't mean you don't play with a passion, a drive and a commitment. It's getting the balance right, but we know it's a big game."

Back-to-back victories over Newcastle and Norwich have left Watford in charge of their own future but with games against Manchester City and Arsenal to finish, Friday's trip across London appears to be their best chance to get three points.

"It's a game in which both sides would have a huge benefit if we win, but the three games we have left are all opportunities," Pearson said.

"This is our next game. Clearly this is a game where both sides have a huge amount to gain by winning, but I'm not going to classify games as more important than others.

"It's very important for us, like every game. We just need to make sure our commitment to having that positive intent is there, and we do what we can to win the game."

West Ham have also enjoyed a timely upturn in form, with a 4-0 rout of relegated Norwich making it seven points from their last four games, making Friday's game an intriguing battle between two apparently evenly-matched teams.

"They're doing what we're doing and fighting for their lives," Pearson said. "They've got good players and they've found some decent form of late and we know it will be a tough game.

"We've managed to secure two wins in the last week as well in difficult games ourselves. "I would say probably in slightly different circumstances because we've won two games 2-1 having been behind in both games, so we've had a bit of an uphill task but the players have dealt with that situation well."