West Ham United have received a timely injury bonus ahead of Thursday’s pivotal Europa League, semi-final clash with Eintracht Frankfurt.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference on Wednesday, manager David Moyes revealed a double injury boost for the match, with both Ben Johnson and Issa Diop seemingly set to be in contention to feature.
Asked about the fitness of his charges, the former Everton boss confirmed the return of the defensive duo: “At the moment, everybody is fit, Ben Johnson had a thigh strain but he seems to be okay at the moment, so he’ll come back into the squad. Issa Diop had rolled his ankle but he has made an incredible recovery. Is he absolutely 100 per cent? Maybe not, but we’re at the stage of the season where we needing to maybe take one or two risks and get him back in the squad.”
Johnson had missed the weekend defeat to Arsenal with that thigh issue, while his 25-year-old teammate, Diop – who was an unused substitute on Sunday – missed the loss to Chelsea and the first leg tussle against Frankfurt with an ankle injury. Long-term absentee Angelo Ogbonna remains out, however, with Moyes seemingly denting any hopes that he may return before the end of the season.
While neither man has been regular a starter so far this term, their return to action comes at a real crunch moment in the campaign, with the east Londoners seeking to secure their passage to a European final, as well as achieve a top-six finish in the Premier League.
At present, the London Stadium outfit are on a run of four games without a win in all competitions, albeit with injury having seemingly played its part in that slight stumble.
The lack of options, particularly defensively, was evident at the weekend against the Gunners, with the Hammers boss forced to name something of a makeshift backline, placing full-back Aaron Cresswell at the heart of the defence with £38k-per-week man Ryan Fredericks in an unconventional left-back berth.
The absence of Craig Dawson due to suspension had also been a factor in that defensive shakeup, although the former Watford man is available to feature against the German outfit, with the return of Diop also finally providing some competition at the heart of the defence.
The Frenchman has made just 13 league appearances in what’s been a frustrating campaign thus far, although the £10.8m-rated man has found some solace in European competition, scoring once and offering one assist in seven Europa League outings thus far.
The 6 foot 4 centre-back has also chipped in with 1.6 tackles per game as well as 2.1 clearances per game on the continent this season, while also winning an impressive 74% of his total duels.
As for Johnson, the 22-year-old academy graduate has also featured in seven games during the club’s surge to the last four, registering some standout defensive statistics of his own with 2.3 tackles and three clearances per 90 thus far.
Although there are doubts over whether the duo will start, their availability in itself is a huge positive, particularly on a night that could go the distance with the gruelling prospect of extra time.