Slaven Speaks - Manchester City


  • Manager reveals Dimitri Payet or Manuel Lanzini could feature at Manchester City on Sunday
  • Slaven Bilic also lifts the lid on a potential move for Juventus and Italy striker Simone Zaza
  • Hammers travel to the Etihad Stadium looking to build on a home win over AFC Bournemouth

Slaven Bilic has revealed that West Ham United stars Dimitri Payet or Manuel Lanzini return for the Premier League trip to Manchester City on Sunday.

The Hammers will take on Pep Guardiola's table-toppers looking to build on a home win over AFC Bournemouth - and overcome the disappointment of a UEFA Europa League exit at the hands of Romanian side Astra Giurgiu.

Bilic was also asked about the Club's seemingly imminent move for Juventus and Italy striker Simone Zaza, and the exciting introduction of young centre forward Ashley Fletcher.

Slaven, can we start with team news ahead of Sunday’s Premier League fixture at Manchester City?

SB: “We had a game on Thursday night and Havard Nordtveit got a kick on his foot. He got a kick a few days before but he played a couple of games, but in the first half against Astra he got a kick in the same spot and he’s very likely to be out on Sunday.

“Mark Noble should be all right. After training we’re going to know more about whether he’s going to be available for Sunday.

“Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini, we’re going to know more on Saturday. Maybe one of them will be in the squad for Sunday’s game. We still have one training session, but the situation is that after this game we have a couple of weeks and the temptation is not to play them because is it worth the risk?

“Of course if there is no risk, of course we would pick them, but there is a big question-mark. Only if there is no risk are we going to use them, and then only one of them.”

With your injury issues and Manchester City’s talented squad and playing style under Pep Guardiola, can you hope to repeat last season’s win at the Etihad Stadium?

SB: “It wasn’t very likely last year because they had started great and had 15 points from five games without conceding a goal, but we played a really good game. We scored twice in the first half.

“In the second half they put us under pressure and were really dominating and creating a few chances, but they missed them and we were good in defending the box. Then we made that huge win.

“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t do it this season. We know it’s a big challenge, not only regarding our injury situation, but we are hoping and our whole plan is to have a good game and to get something out of it.

“Pep has new tactics which are a little bit different than last year’s and they’re not very common tactics, with the full-backs playing with the ball in areas that are not normal. We can live with that because it’s far away from the goal, but we have to stop them being free with time and space in front and in our box.

“It’s going to be hard, of course. They’ve shown already they are top-class players and they’ve gelled. They were the most impressive in their Champions League game against Steaua in Bucharest, but what gives us hope is that Sunderland made it hard for them and so did Stoke – the result was 4-1 but it was not that easy and the game was very even for a long period.

“Man City were Man City last year and we can do it again.”

Reports suggest your move for Juventus and Italy striker Simone Zaza is nearly complete – what can you tell us?

SB: “With the Zaza situation, it looks very likely that it is going to happen today, but until it happens you never know! As far as I know, the deal is agreed between the clubs, his personal terms are also agreed, but it’s still not signed.

“I think he is coming to London today in the early afternoon and hopefully we’re going to do it today.

“It is a boost. It was our plan for a long time now to get a top-quality striker and there were a few of them on our list, and Zaza was always mentioned there, so let’s see what’s going to happen today.”

Ashley Fletcher impressed on Thursday evening – what did you make of his performance?

SB: “He was really good, not only last night when he came on but when he came on against Bournemouth. He made a big impact, not in terms of scoring or creating assists, but he was one of the reasons we won that game.

“He makes the pitch smaller because he is there in no time with that energy and quality. He did a really good pre-season with us and scored a couple of goals against really decent opposition and then last night, when he came on, he did really well and showed he has that quality.

“We had a few chats, me and him, during pre-season and he’s a very bright lad, he believes in himself, he is ready to work, willing to learn and train and sacrifice and I am sure we’re going to benefit from him in the future. He’s really good and I like him.”