West Ham winger Michail Antonio could return for Arsenal trip as Slaven Bilic addresses future

George Flood
Arsene Wenger

West Ham United will remain without Michail Antonio for Saturday's (1 April) Premier League meeting with relegation-threatened Hull City, although manager Slaven Bilic believes there is a "good chance" that the versatile winger will return in time for a tricky midweek trip to Arsenal.

Currently West Ham's top scorer with nine goals to his name so far this term, the uncapped Antonio was recently handed his second international call-up but later withdrew from Gareth Southgate's England squad for matches against Germany and Lithuania due to a hamstring injury sustained during a 3-2 home defeat by Leicester City. That loss proved particularly costly for the hosts, with Pedro Obiang stretchered off with an ankle problem that has since seen him ruled out for the rest of the season and key centre-back Winston Reid suffering a groin tear that will require a five-week lay-off.

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West Ham head of medical and sports science Stijn Vandenbroucke recently stated that Antonio stood to miss three to four weeks as a result of his muscle issue. However, an optimistic Bilic is hopeful of having him back fit for either Wednesday night's clash with London rivals Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium or the subsequent visit of Swansea City.

"He has to pull out of the England squad, we know that, and he was very close to being fit for the Hull game, but he isn't going to be fit," Bilic told reporters at his latest pre-match press conference. "Hopefully, there is a good chance he is going to be OK for the Arsenal game, but this game unfortunately comes a bit too early for him, so he's out.

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"As I said after the Leicester game, Michail is really good at recovering, so there was a chance he could make it for this game, but unfortunately not. I spoke with the medical team and with him and we have a good chance he is going to be fit for Arsenal in midweek, if not, definitely Swansea."

While none of Antonio, Obiang, Reid, Angelo Ogbonna or the lesser-spotted Gokhan Tore will be available to feature at Hull, West Ham captain Mark Noble is back in contention after sitting out against Leicester due to the lingering effects of a dead leg. Diafra Sakho returned to first-team training on Thursday (30 March) having finally recovered from back surgery, although the injury-plagued striker is not yet fit enough to make what would be only his third appearance of the 2016-17 campaign to date.

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Asked about his own future amid a five-match winless run and fervent speculation that his current deal will not be renewed during the summer, an under-pressure Bilic said: "It's been for a few months or whatever, what do you want me to say? There's nothing new that I want to say about it, I just concentrate on my job and I am totally focused on our next game.

"It doesn't worry me, I don't read about it, I'm not making phone calls or whatever. I'm in my job, I am happy and we're in a position where we can have a good finish to the season. We can climb up a few places if we win games, we can go a few places down if we don't win games.

"Even in that good period, when you or whoever were talking about a new contract, I said we were not finished and there were a lot of games to play. I am not bothered [about the speculation] to be fair. I was telling you same last season and earlier this season when you were talking about a new contract."

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