Belfast Telegraph

Diafra Sakho sidelined in Hammers blow

West Ham boss Slaven Bilic is expecting striker Diafra Sakho to be out for up to eight weeks with a back injury.

The 26-year-old Senegal international has made only two Premier League appearances this season, and will now miss the crucial festive period and next month's African Nations Cup.

Bilic, speaking ahead of the Boxing Day trip to Swansea, said: "He had a back operation and he's going to be out for six to eight weeks. Of course it will rule him out for the African Nations Cup."

Sakho last featured during the 1-1 draw at Manchester United on November 27, opening the scoring after 90 seconds before going off midway through the second half.

Bilic also feels his squad will cope with the absence of Sakho and ruled out the possibility of going into the transfer market for striking options with Andy Carroll and club-record signing Andre Ayew returning to fitness.

"We played this whole part of the season without Diafra Sakho," he added.

"We only had him for a couple of games but do we have a player that has the same characteristics Sakho has? The answer is no, but it is not easy to find a replacement in January.

"Like all of the other managers I'm not crazy about the January transfer window, but you never know. The injury for Sakho and the few injuries we have, that is why the January transfer window is good, but I'm not a fan of doing big things in January.

"One player or a couple of players either to fill a gap with loans until the end of the season, or even better to find something permanent for a few years, is also good. We are going to try to do a couple (of transfers) in positions - if it happens it happens.

"Our priority is (to focus) on the players that we have and that they show improvement. We have a good squad here but if something we are monitoring comes available then we are going to try and do it."

Speculation over the future of midfielder Dimitri Payet has increased following the 29-year-old's comments during an interview with a French broadcaster earlier this week. But despite interest from a number of clubs, Bilic insists the club "are going to do everything they can" to ensure the Frenchman stays at the London Stadium.

"That is our statement, we do not want to sell," Bilic said.

"Now it is the transfer window and of course all the speculation starts, he is in those speculations because he is Dimitri Payet, he's a great player but he has a contract with us. As the board says and as I say every time you ask me that question, we do not want to sell him and we are going to do everything to make sure that he stays with us."

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