Bilic gets better news for busy spell
- Credit: PA ARCHIVE IMAGES
West Ham boss hopes to have players back from injury
West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic received an early Christmas present in the form of some good news on the injury front as the club prepared for the busy festive period.
Having seen his side held to a third successive goalless draw by Swansea, Bilic takes them to bottom club Villa Park on Boxing Day, before hosting an out-of-sorts Southampton on Bank Holiday Monday.
And having seen several attacking players sidelined by a host of problems in recent weeks, the Croatian is hoping to have more choice soon.
He said: “We will train on Christmas Day, in the afternoon, then we will travel to Birmingham. It’s as usual in England, that’s the schedule.
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“It looks like it will be the same squad as against Swansea for Villa, but we should have one or two back for Southampton. Lanzini is progressing and will probably be available for the Southampton game.
“Every game is difficult in the Premier League and Aston Villa are struggling, but they played a good game against Newcastle last week.
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“They are fighting for their lives and will have confidence from that away point. I am not expecting anything easier than Swansea, Stoke or Man United. They have quality players who can hurt you.”
Influential West Ham playmaker Dimitri Payet has been sidelined with an ankle injury since the draw with Everton in early November, missing the last five matches.
The team have taken only five points in the last seven outings, scoring just three times and dropping to eighth place in the Premier League table, but Frenchman Payet is close to a return.
Bilic added: “It is good news that Dimitri Payet is ahead of schedule. He should train with us after Villa and is with the fitness coaches now.
“He might be involved in the Liverpool game (on January 2) which would be a big boost for us.”
Bilic was also asked at his weekly press conference about the news that captain Mark Noble had been granted a testimonial by the club and had glowing praise for the 28-year-old midfielder, who is closing in on his 350th appearance for the first team.
“It’s great that Mark Noble is going to have a testimonial game. He deserves it and is a club legend,” he said.