David Moyes is hopeful that Michail Antonio will be able to make his return to the West Ham United starting line-up for Sunday’s London derby with Tottenham Hotspur.
The striker sat out the Hammers’ last Premier League fixture and his side’s FA Cup fifth-round defeat to Manchester United through fatigue, after being withdrawn from the goalless draw with Fulham earlier this month.
Antonio looked extremely jaded at Craven Cottage as he played two games in the space of three days, having started and featured for the full 90 minutes of the Irons’ 3-1 win away to Aston Villa earlier that week.
Antonio had only played the full 90 three times before visiting Fulham on February 6 following his second hamstring injury of the campaign, coming against Burnley and in an FA Cup third-round win at League Two side Stockport County in mid-January.
Moyes now hopes that an extended break between appearances will have given Antonio the refresh he needed, after showing good signs of progress in training.
“Michail has a good chance of being available for Sunday because he’s had three days training,” the West Ham boss said during his pre-match press conference on Friday.
“We’ve always been careful with Mich in trying to get him right, but he was close for the last game [against Sheffield United]. We didn’t quite think it was worth the risk.
“He’s not been training with the group every day, but he’s been doing some individual work and hopefully we’ll know a bit more tomorrow [Saturday].”
West Ham host Tottenham on Sunday looking to record a first home victory over the north London side since 2017, having lost each of Spurs’ last four visits to the London Stadium in all competitions.
Having Antonio back available for such a match would come as a huge boost for Moyes, with the 30-year-old not only the Hammers sole recognised senior striker after Sebastien Haller’s winter departure but also a player who gives his all to the cause.
“Antonio leaves everything on the pitch when he plays, he’s that sort of player,” former Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor said of the £11m-rated star to Football Insider when it was revealed he would miss the FA Cup clash with Manchester United.
The centre-forward’s five goals in 15 Premier League appearances – only Tomas Soucek (8) has scored more for West Ham this season – also account for seven of the Irons’ 42 points in the top-flight this term, which without would leave the Hammers 10th in the table.
Instead, a win over Spurs on Sunday could be enough to move the east London side above Chelsea and into fourth in the standings, depending on their result against Southampton on Saturday afternoon.