Slaven Bilic is hoping the return of up to four senior stars will boost West Ham United as his squad seek to overcome Sunday’s 4-0 defeat at Manchester United.
The Hammers kicked-off the new Premier League season in the worst possible way result-wise, slipping to the heaviest defeat of the opening weekend.
However, the manager believes Michail Antonio (hamstring) will return to face his former club Southampton on Saturday, with Manuel Lanzini, Cheikhou Kouyate (both knee) and Andy Carroll (hip) set to make their comebacks at Newcastle United a week later.
“We are expecting a few of them who were injured last season, along with Cheikhou and Manuel from this pre-season,” said Bilic, who also welcomed Diafra Sakho back from a back injury at Old Trafford.
“Michail Antonio should be back for the game against Southampton and then Cheikhou, Manuel and even Andy Carroll should be there for the game against Newcastle in the third game of the season, or latest after the international break which is after that game.
“All of them will be back very soon and we can talk about that, but we had a decent team out on Sunday and I expected more.”
Reflecting further his team’s opening-day defeat, the Croatian was magnanimous, admitting his team had simply been outplayed by Jose Mourinho’s full-strength side.
West Ham came close to scoring at 1-0 and 2-0 down, and conceded two goals in the final three minutes to give the final score a one-sided appearance, but Bilic was making no excuses.
We have no other option but to pick up ourselves and prepare for the second game of the season against Southampton
“To be fair, the game could have finished 2-0 or we could have scored a goal or whatever, but it wasn’t to be and it’s a very bad result for us,” he observed
“They were much better than us in every department of the game. They were better with the ball and better without the ball and we knew that they had that quality and that pace and they have strength and everything.
“That’s why we didn’t want to let them be in one-against-one situations. We wanted to create two-against-one because we could cope with that, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be and if they are one-against-one or you give them time and space to turn in little pockets in dangerous areas, then they are lethal, as they showed.”
While a 4-0 defeat will clearly not give anyone in Claret and Blue a morale boost at the start of the new campaign, Bilic says the Hammers have to examine what went wrong and use what they learn to make improvements in future fixtures – starting at St Mary’s this weekend.
“It should affect our confidence, although it will of course,” he admitted. “We are very low at the moment and the players feel very bad, as do I also.
“OK, it’s Manchester United but we have no other option but to pick up ourselves and prepare for the second game of the season against Southampton.
“We aren’t going to forget about this game and say it just happened. We have to analyse this game. On the other hand, it is the first game of the season and we can’t lose confidence just because of one game, especially if that game is against Man United.”