Although it’s difficult to imagine judging from the passion shown by Slaven Bilic on the sidelines, West Ham’s 1-1 draw at Watford had all the hallmarks of a meaningless mid-table clash.
The fireworks, it seems, are being put in the locker for next Monday’s London Stadium match against champions-elect Chelsea. West Ham have beaten the Blues once this season – in the EFL Cup that went to Manchester United on Sunday – and boss Bilic has seen enough to suggest a repeat is possible.
We are a good team now
West Ham have lost just once in their last six league games and sit ninth but form will mean very little against Antonio Conte’s relentless winning machine. The west London side have a 10-point lead at the top of the standings.
Bilic, reflecting on October’s 2-1 win, said: “Hopefully we are going to do the same. They are doing fantastic, they are winning and they are everything.
“They are solid and up front they have that unbelievable pace, strength and quality that is hard to stop. But we are a good team now, and we have been really good for a period of seven or eight games.
“We are good physically, we are good mentally, we are good on the ball, we are good in transition, and that is why there is always belief.”
Saturday’s match was held up by a serious injury to Watford’s Mauro Zarate, playing against his old club. Zarate will be remembered by Irons for his goal against Arsenal at the Emirate Stadium last season, a victory that signalled the beginning of West Ham’s revival.
Zarate required oxygen and nine minutes of treatment on the pitch before he was carried off on a stretcher and taken to hospital for scans where it was discovered he suffered anterior cruciate ligament rupture plus an injury grade 1 of medial collateral ligament.
“I will face this with all my strength and will be back stronger than before,” he said in an Instagram post.
Hope for Carroll's return
Bilic has better injury news and is hopeful Andy Carroll will be fit to face Chelsea. The striker should be back in full training by Wednesday after a persistent groin problem and will be key to leading the line against the formidable Chelsea defence.
The striker missed Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Watford with a groin problem but Bilic expects him back in full training by Wednesday at the latest.
“He ran on Friday and Saturday morning with no negative reaction, so hopefully. Me and my medical department are fighting. They say Wednesday, I say Tuesday,” said Bilic.
“Then hopefully four or five days of training, that is always enough for Andy to shine in the next game. So hopefully he is going to be able to play against Chelsea.”
Ayew makes his mark
Carroll, who has scored four goals in his last four matches, was missed as West Ham failed to cancel out Deeney’s early penalty at Vicarage Road. The goal finally came after Michail Antonio – later red-carded – pinballed both posts, present Andre Ayew with a cushioned shot into an open net. It was Ayew’s his first appearance since returning from the African Nations Cup with Ghana.
“For the goal the ball came to me off both posts. That’s the game and sometimes that’s how it comes, sometimes it doesn’t, but that’s football,” Ayew told the club’s website .
“For me it was important to score in my first game back. I will continue to work hard and hopefully I can get some more goals.”
“It was a fair result - they had the first half and we had the second.”
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