Michail Antonio is set to return to West Ham’s squad for this weekend’s clash with Leeds United, assistant manager Stuart Pearce has confirmed…
The 31-year-old talisman was suspended at the weekend and missed the Irons’ 2-1 defeat to Manchester United in the Premier League and then was not involved in the Carabao Cup clash on Wednesday night.
However, his absence was not injury-related in what will be a massive boost to David Moyes and the east London side.
“He was available tonight. We just chose not to pick him,” said Pearce to BBC reporter Simon Stone.
Antonio has suffered with plenty of injuries over the course of his Hammers career – he has not started more than 24 times in any of the last four Premier League seasons, largely due to mounting problems.
When he’s not selected, there will obviously be cause for concern, given this history.
However, it will come as encouraging news to everyone associated with West Ham that he’s in contention to return to the starting XI this weekend, against a Leeds side he could well tear apart.
Marcelo Bielsa is dealing with a defensive nightmare ahead of kick-off as he could be without no fewer than four first-team regulars, with injuries piling up at Elland Road.
According to Football Insider, the Whites will be without three senior centre-backs in Diego Llorente, Robin Koch and Pascal Struijk, whilst right-back and vice-captain Luke Ayling is a major doubt.
It means 19-year-old Charlie Cresswell may be forced into making his Premier League debut, whilst Kalvin Phillips – who plays a key role in defensive midfield – is another option who could drop back.
Speaking ahead of the game, former top-flight striker Kevin Campbell claimed Antonio would be “chomping at the bit” to face the barren Yorkshire giants.
“He will exploit any weakness in that defence,” he told Football Insider.
“Who are they going to play back there? Cresswell has never played a Premier League game and Antonio is certainly not the player you want to make your debut against.
“He can be devastating to feet and really hurt you in behind. It is going to be very tough for Leeds to deal with players like that. Antonio will be desperate to get going again after his suspension.”
Moyes will be buzzing to get the Premier League’s leading goalscorer back into the mix this weekend. It’s certainly a huge positive heading into the match.
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