West Ham United striker Andy Carroll looks set to make his latest return from injury against Arsenal on Saturday (3 December), although Slaven Bilic has been eager to stress that the former England international is not yet fit enough to complete a full 90 minutes.
Carroll, blighted by injury problems since joining the Hammers in a £15m ($18.9m) switch from Liverpool in 2013, has not played at all since sustaining a knee problem during a Europa League qualifying play-off tie against Romanian champions Astra Giurgiu in mid-August.
The issue, which was described as "very strange" by Bilic and did not show up until scans that took place a day later, was initially only expected to keep Carroll sidelined for between four to six weeks.
The 27-year-old took to social media to reject claims that he had suffered a setback in his recovery and it was later suggested that he could make his first domestic appearance since the opening weekend of the season during Wednesday night's EFL Cup quarter-final tie against Manchester United.
Carroll did not make the bench for that heavy 4-1 loss, although does look set to play a bit-part role this weekend as West Ham welcome Arsenal to the Olympic Stadium. He proved a real menace for Arsene Wenger's side last season, netting an impressive hat-trick during a pulsating 3-3 draw at Upton Park that all but ended the Gunners' title hopes.
"He will be in the squad," Bilic told reporters at his pre-match press conference. "He is ready. His injury happened at the beginning of the season so it's like three months. He's ready, although he's definitely not ready to play 90 minutes. He's ready to make an impact."
Carroll's imminent comeback comes at a crucial time for West Ham, with Diafra Sakho having been ruled out for six weeks as a result of the thigh injury he picked up after opening the scoring during a 1-1 Premier League draw at Old Trafford. That was just his second appearance since returning from a lingering back complaint. Record signing Andre Ayew is also back training after a knock and Bilic refused to be drawn on whether or not he would hunt for a new striker in January.
"To be fair, we are thinking about the transfer window a bit but we are totally focused on a very busy period we have in front of us starting with tomorrow's game. It's a big blow for us and we know what he can give us and what he did in those couple of games. But he will be back."
In addition to Sakho, West Ham are currently without Sam Byram, Gokhan Tore and Reece Oxford. Key pair Aaron Cresswell and Michail Antonio have also been ruled out after both suffering groin injuries in the second clash with United, although West Ham claimed to be confident that neither injury looked serious.
"We paid the price for playing a strong team in the cup game," Bilic added. "The good thing is it is not really bad. I just spoke to the medical team and they're out for this game but the team is very optimistic they should be ready for the game against Liverpool [on 11 December]."