Slaven Bilic expects Dimitri Payet to make his first start of the season during West Ham United's home Premier League clash against Watford on Saturday (10 September). The influential playmaker has taken a while to regain full fitness in the aftermath of hosts France's run to the final of Euro 2016, making just one appearance for his club in 2016/17 as a second-half replacement for Havard Nordtveit during the opening week 2-1 defeat at Chelsea.
Payet was absent altogether from top-flight matches against Bournemouth and Manchester City, while he also missed the Europa League qualifying play-off ties that saw West Ham eliminated before the group stage by Romanian champions Astra Giurgiu for the second year in succession. However, the 29-year-old did make two substitute appearances during the international break as Les Bleus followed up a 3-1 friendly win over Italy in Bari with a disappointing goalless 2018 World Cup qualifying draw away to Belarus, and Bilic is hopeful he will be ready to face Watford.
"I have just seen him [Payet]," he was quoted as saying by the Hammers' official website at a pre-match press conference. "He has not played for us since the opening game against Chelsea but he played 45 minutes for France in a friendly against Italy and then came on against Belarus.
"We will see how he is but he will definitely be in the squad. I am expecting him to be fit and ready and he will start the game."
When asked how much West Ham had missed their star man, Bilic added: "Of course we have missed him. It is the same for any club who are without their key players. France missed him and I watched the game. France were a better team when he came on with his quality from open play and delivery from set-pieces."
The Hammers had several first-team players away during the international break, including Payet, Nordtveit, Cheikhou Kouyate and Gokhan Tore. As confirmed by head of medical and sports science Stijn Vandenbroucke, none of those returnees have reported back with any additional injury concerns and should all join in with training on Thursday.
"After the international break we will have training with the full squad for the first time as they are all back now," Bilic said. "The rest of the guys who have not been involved in international duty have been training for the last couple of weeks and we have to wait for today's training, but we should have some of the injured players back.
"Manuel Lanzini is back and came on against Manchester City. He is fully fit and all the players who came back from their countries have not reported any injuries. A few of them should be involved in the game against Watford."
Sofiane Feghouli should be in line to make his Premier League debut this weekend after fully recovering from a thigh injury, while new signings Alvaro Arbeloa, Edimilson Fernandes and Simone Zaza should also be in contention. Left-back Aaron Cresswell is scheduled to return to training in October. Andy Carroll, record signing Andre Ayew and Diafra Sakho all remain sidelined.