Dimitri Payet is on course to make a return from injury when West Ham face Liverpool on January 2, according to Slaven Bilic.
The French international had been in great form for the Hammers before his season was cruelly interrupted by an ankle injury that he sustained playing against Everton last month.
Payet was expected to be missing until February, but Bilic – who is currently dealing with an injury crisis at the Boleyn Ground – has confirmed that the former Marseille man will return to training with the squad over the next few days.
“It is good news with Dimitri as he is ahead of schedule, so he should train with us after the Villa game or the Southampton game,” Bilic said ahead of their Boxing Day clash with Aston Villa.
“He is training with the fitness coaches and he might be involved in the Liverpool game which is a big boost.
“At the beginning we thought he would be back in February but he is way ahead of schedule and it is not that bad. His ankle is very good – it is stable – so it is great news if it goes like this.”
The Aston Villa match would appear to be a good opportunity for West Ham – who haven’t won a Premier League match since they beat Chelsea 2-1 on October 24 – to get back to winning ways.
“I saw their last few games and against Newcastle they had a really good game, especially after they equalised,” said Bilic of Villa’s performance against Newcastle.
“For 20 minutes they were much better and I have seen the energy, seen their quality and they are fighting for their lives
“But they have confidence now because they have one point from an away game. They are at home against us and they look forward to that game.
“So, make no mistake I am not expecting anything easier than against Swansea, Stoke or Manchester United. They have some quality players who can harm you.”