West Ham United have been dealt a blow ahead of Thursday evening’s Europa Conference League play-off clash.
That’s according to first-team coach Billy McKinlay, who – standing in for the suspended David Moyes in the pre-match press conference – revealed that, despite it initially appearing as if Craig Dawson’s injury setback was only minor, the 32-year-old will once again be unavailable for selection against Viborg FF tonight.
Regarding the centre-back’s current condition, the 53-year-old first-team coach said: “Craig has a problem with his quad, he’s missed a few weeks so he’s a short-term [injury] and hopefully won’t be too long.”
While it is true that West Ham have added a new centre-back in the shape of Thilo Kehrer to their first-team squad this week, with the £10.1m signing looking to be available for selection in this evening’s fixture, the news that Dawson will once again be sidelined is sure to have come as a huge blow to McKinlay and the Hammers.
Indeed, at present, Kurt Zouma and – potentially – Kehrer are the club’s only available senior centre-backs, with Angelo Ogbonna, Nayef Aguerd and Dawson all being ruled out due to knocks – an eventuality that has seen right-back Ben Johnson start both of the Irons’ two Premier League fixtures in the heart of defence.
Also, with both Declan Rice and Aaron Cresswell suspended for the visit of Viborg, McKinlay is somewhat lacking in experienced leaders for the European clash – something Dawson’s continued absence only adds towards.
Furthermore, considering just how impressive the £2.7m-rated defender was throughout West Ham’s Europa League run last season – averaging a SofaScore match rating of 7.17 over his ten appearances in the competition, ranking him as his side’s third-best player in the tournament – it is clear to see that the 32-year-old’s unavailability this evening is a huge blow.
As such, McKinlay will simply have to find a way to make do without Dawson for the Viborg clash – a game the Hammers must win if they wish to give themselves the best possible chance of qualifying for the Europa Conference League proper this season.