West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic has delivered some positive news ahead of the Christmas period, confirming that Dimitri Payet is ahead of schedule in his return from injury and could feature in the home game against Liverpool on 2 January. The boss also suggests that while Manuel Lanzini will miss the Boxing Day (26 December) trip to Aston Villa, he will probably be available for the following match against Southampton.
The Hammers enjoyed an impressive start to the campaign with victories over Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea. However, they are without a win in their last seven Premier League games, following a series of injuries to key players including Payet, Lanzini, Diafra Sakho, Enner Valencia and Andy Carroll.
But Bilic says the situation is now likely to improve with the returns of Payet and Lanzini, who were arguably the standouts during West Ham's purple patch at the start of the year.
The France forward scored five goals and provided three assists before sustaining an ankle knock against Everton in November.
He was initially ruled out until February but, speaking ahead of the game against Villa on Saturday (26 December), Bilic said as quoted by BBC: "It is good news that Dimitri Payet is ahead of schedule."
"He should train with us after Villa and is with the fitness coaches now. He might be involved in the Liverpool game [on 2 January], which would be a big boost for us."
Meanwhile, Lanzini, who scored four goals in 12 appearances before picking an injury ahead of the game against Manchester United earlier this month, is expected to return for the clash with Southampton on 28 December.
"Manuel Lanzini is progressing and will probably be available for the Southampton game. It looks like it will be the same squad as against Swansea for Villa, but we should have one or two back for Southampton."
Bilic also warned his players to not take anything for granted ahead of the game against Villa, despite them remaining rock bottom of the Premier League with just seven points.
"Every game is difficult in the Premier League and Aston Villa are struggling, but they played a good game against Newcastle [United] last week," he said. "They are fighting for their lives and will have confidence from that away point. I am not expecting anything easier than Swansea, Stoke or Manchester United. They have some quality players who can hurt you."