Fit-again Payet ready for Reds clash

LONDON • West Ham manager Slaven Bilic is weighing up whether to throw influential playmaker Dimitri Payet straight in against Liverpool today, with the French midfielder being a month ahead of schedule in his fitness battle.

The 28-year-old was expected to be sidelined until next month with an ankle injury, but he has made such a rapid recovery that he could be in the starting line-up.

"Is he in contention to start? Yes," Bilic said.

"He is back training with us and depending on how he does today, I'm expecting him to be in the squad and available for the game."

Payet was instrumental in West Ham's strong start to the season and Bilic was full of praise for the former Marseille player, who has been directly involved in eight goals in his 12 English Premier League appearances this season.

In his absence, the Hammers went eight games without victory prior to Monday's 2-1 win over Southampton.

"I rate him on the same level as (Arsenal's) Mesut Oezil," Bilic said. "He creates space for others, he creates chances, he can take three or four players out of the game."

With several players returning before the transfer window, the Croat was keen to stress that he was "happy with the squad" and is not expecting a very active month.

"We are not looking to improve our squad. But if something exceptional comes up, then of course it's a possibility."

West Ham won at Anfield in August, one of the results that led to Liverpool's former manager Brendan Rodgers losing his job in early October.

Their current manager Juergen Klopp admits that the Reds can play a lot better. "We could have made our lives easier by making more of our early opportunities," he said.

"So we have to keep working and show patience. The biggest change in the last two games is that we have shown we can fight for results."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WEST HAM V LIVERPOOL

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 02, 2016, with the headline 'Fit-again Payet ready for Reds clash'. Print Edition | Subscribe