David Moyes has confirmed that West Ham United striker Michail Antonio will be fit to face Aston Villa on Wednesday night after a brief injury scare.
The Irons boss had been forced to withdraw Antonio in the closing stages of Sunday’s 3-1 defeat at home to Liverpool, sparking fears of another spell on the sidelines for the 30-year-old.
Antonio made his first start since returning from injury in last month’s 1-0 win at home to Burnley, in which he scored the only goal, before netting the winner over West Bromwich Albion next time out for his fifth goal of the campaign.
Only Tomas Soucek (7) has scored more for West Ham in the top-flight this term than Antonio, who Moyes has confirmed is showing no signs of an injury following the Liverpool game.
“I think everything is OK,” Moyes said. “We have a couple of knocks and niggles which we’ll look at in training this morning but, overall, everything seems to be OK.
“Mick is OK. We’re pleased he’s come through recent games well and he seems OK.”
Moyes added that January arrival Jesse Lingard, signed on loan from Manchester United, will be available to make his West Ham debut at Aston Villa on Wednesday night.
“Jesse Lingard’s fitness levels are fine. He’s a lean boy and doesn’t carry any weight so he’s in good shape, and I am sure Manchester United would have kept him in good condition as well,” Moyes added.
“More than anything for Jesse, it’s just if he’s completely match ready to play, but you only get that by playing matches as well. As long as everything is fine, I hope to have him involved. We’ll have him in and around the squad, but will he start? I couldn’t confirm that, and I wouldn’t confirm it anyway.”
Antonio being passed fit to play at Villa Park is exactly the news that Moyes will have wanted to hear ahead of West Ham’s midweek trip to Birmingham, having failed to sign a supporting striker in the winter transfer window.
The Hammers chose against signing a replacement for Sebastien Haller following the Ivory Coast international’s £20m move to AFC Ajax, with Moyes adamant that he would not splash out “just for the sake of it”.
His decision has left Antonio as the only senior striker at the London Stadium, and losing him for another lengthy period would seriously threaten their hopes of qualifying for European competition, with the Irons currently fifth in the Premier League table.
Moyes was already forced to rely on midfielder Soucek coming up with the goals to beat Crystal Palace as Antonio endured an off night at Selhurst Park last week, and again saw the forward cut a frustrated figure against Liverpool.
But it is one thing having an off game or two and your teammates having to step up, but managing without an out-and-out striker for a long period of time is a completely different kettle of fish. Luckily for Moyes, though, that is not what West Ham will have to endure.