Enner set for Ecuador return

Enner Valencia is looking forward to pulling on the famous yellow shirt of the Ecuador national team again this week.

The West Ham United forward returns to Los Amarillos duty for the first time since appearing at the Copa America in June 2015.

A pair of ankle injuries have ruled Valencia out of Ecuador’s record-breaking start to their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, which has seen them win four matches out of four to go top of the ultra-competitive South American group.

The country may have a population of a little more than 16 million, but Ecuador have already pulled off a first-ever win in Argentina, followed by home victories over Bolivia and Uruguay and a 3-1 success in Venezuela.

Next up come the visit of fourth-place Paraguay on Thursday, followed by a trip to neighbours Colombia on Tuesday 29 March.

“We play against Paraguay in Quito and then Colombia away,” said the No11. “They are two very difficult games, but Ecuador is now performing very well. We will hope to get three points at home and then Colombia will be very tough, but we will try our best again.

“The whole country is behind us. We are doing fantastic and everyone is confident. To be top of the table is a fantastic performance.

“I am also looking forward to seeing my family again, as I have not been home since the Copa America last June. It is hot there now, too!”

At club level, Valencia returned to the West Ham starting XI for Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Chelsea, where he gave a typically energetic performance at both ends of the pitch.

“It was a very good game and I was very happy to start the game and contribute to a good result,” he said, speaking in his rapidly improving English.

“It was very good for my confidence. I am very happy with all the Club and the fans and I’ll keep working hard for them.”

While he did not get on the scoresheet himself, Valencia was delighted for fellow South American Manuel Lanzini, who curled in an exquisite opener.

Later, super-sub Andy Carroll scored within seconds of his arrival on the pitch to put West Ham 2-1 up, only for a controversial late penalty to secure a scarcely-deserved draw for the Blues.

“Manu’s goal was unbelievable,” Valencia confirmed. “He is a fantastic player and he has the capability to be one of the best players with West Ham. I know him from his time in South America and now he is a very good player here in England. He has good technique and he scored a fantastic goal on Saturday.

“Andy, too, is unbelievable. He was on the pitch for about 20 seconds and he scored a goal!”