West Ham set to have Sakho back for Tottenham showdown
PUBLISHED: 08:30 19 November 2016
PA Wire/PA Images
West Ham boss Slaven Bilic says his striker is raring to get on the pitch at White Hart Lane on Saturday
West Ham’s forgotten striker – Diafra Sakho – is set to return to the team for their Premier League showdown with Tottenham at White Hart Lane on Saturday.
The Senegal international has been out since the final game of last season and almost joined West Brom in the summer, only to fail a medical.
But the 26-year-old has worked his way slowly back to fitness and manager Slaven Bilic confirmed he will be in the squad this weekend.
“I like Sakho as a player,” said Bilic at the pre-match press conference yesterday (Thursday).
“There are a lot of positives about him, while there is only one thing that puts you off him. I’m not talking about him failing a medical, but how he got an injury on the very first day of training.”
Sakho has had a prolonged pre-season, training firstly on his own, then with the under-23s and finally, for the past two weeks, with the first team.
“There comes a time when he has to play because he has done enough training and he looks good,” added Bilic.
“You can’t test him or prepare him more for a game than we have done and eventually you have to put him on the pitch and that is what we are going to do.”
There have been questions about the African striker’s mental state, but Bilic dismissed those concerns.
“He is very good mentally. He is totally up for it since the deal at West Brom broke down and he has recovered from injury,” he said.
“I had a chat with him and he is in a very good place.”
Also expected to start at White Hart Lane are defenders Winston Reid and James Collins, who pulled out of international matches for New Zealand and Wales respectively, but have been in training all week.
One man they will have to do without, though, is skipper Mark Noble who serves a one-match ban and Bilic knows that is a blow.
“He is the skipper and a leader, not only as a player on the pitch, but this sort of game is about character,” he said.
“We beat them last season in a special kind of atmosphere, it was electric and in that type of game you need those sort of players.”
Bilic will choose between moving Cheikhou Kouyate out of defence and back into midfield or gamble on youngster Edimilson Fernandes in that position.
Whoever he picks, it will be a tough game tomorrow. Bilic made his West Ham debut at Spurs in a 1-0 win and he knows just how big a game it is.
“Spurs games are special,” he said. “You have other London derbies, but for me personally it is the biggest – I don’t know why.
“Maybe because most of the cabbies are either Spurs or West Ham so when you get in a taxi a few weeks before the game, they let you know who they are. If they leave you a couple of blocks from your destination, you know they are Spurs!”
Tomorrow’s match is just the start of a difficult run of games which sees them take on Manchester United in league and cup, Arsenal and Liverpool, but the manager is not concerned.
“We have a tough run, you don’t have to be a genius to realise we are not the favourites in any of these games,” he added.
“But we showed against Chelsea that we can play good and when we do we have a chance against any team in the Premier League. It is down to us and I am optimistic when I see the team.”