West Ham manager Slaven Bilic has confirmed that James Collins and Sam Byram are close to returning to action but will still remain on the sidelines for the London derby against Arsenal on Saturday (9 April). The Croatian boss, meanwhile, has expressed his delight to have Cheikhou Kouyate available for the game after the Football Association (FA) decided to rescind the red card he saw during the 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace.
Collins has missed the last three Premier League games against Everton, Chelsea and Palace after he picked up an injury during the 1-0 victory over Tottenham on 2 March. Byram, meanwhile, hasn't appeared in the first-team since late February when he made a good impression during his first weeks at the club following his January arrival from Leeds United. The 22-year-old defender missed two games due to suspension and further two with a knock. Bilic has claimed that both defenders are expected to return to training on Friday (8 April) but the game with the Gunners will still come too early for them.
"We are good in that department at the moment. There is only James Collins and Sam Byram, who haven't trained with us for a few weeks now," the boss confirmed in the press conference. "Both are going to train with us tomorrow, but of course it is too early for them to be in the squad on Saturday, but they are coming back before the end of the season."
In better news, the manager was given a boost in his midfield earlier in the week after the FA confirmed its decision to rescind Kouyate's dismissal during the draw against Palace, after confirming that the Senegalese player was wrongfully sent off in the 67th minute of the game for a challenge on Dwight Gayle.
Bilic said: "He's a great player and he scored the first goal of the season for us and we're delighted to have him back but, as I've said, he should never have got sent off in the first place. The good and proper decision has been made to overrule his red card."
The Hammers lie in sixth position of the Premier League as they host Arsenal, just three points behind the top four. They already beat the Gunners at the Emirates Stadium in the opening game of the campaign and Bilic hopes to repeat the same result on Saturday in order to keep alive their hopes to secure Champions League football next season.
"It's about our form and position in the table that makes us quite confident," Bilic added. "That game was ages ago, but it's nice to know at the back of your head that we played and beat them earlier this season. It has not a lot to do with this game, however. Arsenal have great pace and skill and are very lethal especially in the beginning of games.
"First of all, it is a London derby and a big game. The season is approaching its end and it is very important for them and for us. We are both fighting for a place in Europe and from their point of view, they're trying to be champions. They admitted that they must win all their remaining games, so it's a big game with a lot at stake. They have said they need the three points and so do we to stay in the race, so it should be a really good game of football."
The manager claimed that he is not expected to rotate his squad despite the Hammers facing their FA quarter final replay with Manchester United just four days later, on Wednesday 13 April.
"We play Arsenal, then have a cup replay against Manchester United, then go to Leicester. But we are approaching the Arsenal game and then we have three days to recover and think about Manchester United. We are going to put the best team out that we can on Saturday.
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