West Ham captain out of Leicester City clash with injury
PUBLISHED: 07:30 17 March 2017
Hammers boss Slaven Bilic set to ring the changes for Saturday's showdown with Champions League quarter-finalists
West Ham skipper Mark Noble will miss the home clash with Leicester City tomorrow (Saturday) after suffering a dead leg.
The under-pressure captain was in danger of losing his place in midfield anyway, but manager Slaven Bilic confirmed at his pre-match press conference that he would be missing.
“Mark unfortunately is not going to be available for the game,” said Bilic. “He got a dead leg two days before we played Chelsea, but as a captain and all that, he wanted to play.
“He tried and was okay for the game and the same against Bournemouth, but he got a kick in the same place during that match and now it is a bit more painful.”
That would partly explain the 29-year-old’s lack of form, but it also spares Bilic the tough decision about whether to drop his captain.
He added: “I spoke with him about the criticism. He is the captain and he takes on everything for the team, but sometimes it is too much. Sometimes, he takes it home, he thinks about it too much and the man can only take what he can take.
“We decided he is not available for Saturday and after that there is the international break. I left it to him and it was his decision to go away for a week.”
Bilic is certainly not dismissing the contribution of his captain.
“Someone asked me before the Chelsea game about him playing for England and then afterwards about him being dropped,” laughed the boss.
“He never hides on the pitch, he always wants the ball. I have no worries about Mark, he is our captain and he does everything for the club and will be back soon.”
Noble’s absence should open the door for Cheikhou Kouyate to move back into the midfield, but Bilic hinted that there will be other changes too.
“We have some options, so maybe we are going to make a few changes,” he said.
“Not only because some of the guys did not play well, but maybe because some who came off the bench did a good job.
“When they came on they did good, so they also deserve a chance.”
Bilic will be referring to Andre Ayew, with Sofiane Feghouli likely to make way, while with Kouyate set to play in midfield, it opens the door for youngster Sam Byram.
“Sam could start,” he said. “Now he is back in fitness and came on against Bournemouth and made an assist, he is definitely one of the options.
“It would be very nice to have a right-back at right-back. Since he came here his biggest problem is that he was not available enough.”
Byram did make a goal at Dean Court, but was caught too far upfield for what turned out to be the winner and Bilic said he spoke to him about that.
“It is a good mentality to have, to be positive, but there are situations near the end of games, where you have to think about it,” he said.
“Was the ball totally under control before he sprints forward like when he made the assist?
“Andre Ayew was not in a great position, he was surrounded by three or four players. I don’t want to take that mentality away from him, games are about taking a gamble, but sometimes you don’t do those things.”
West Ham will have their work cut out against a Leicester side buoyed by reaching the last eight of the Champions League this week.