West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola is confident the loss of Carlton Cole to injury will not derail his side as they look to maintain their strong recent run with victory over Manchester United today.
Zola yesterday revealed England striker Cole is likely to be out of action until the end of January with the knee ligament injury sustained in the Hammers' 5-3 win against Burnley last weekend.
Cole, 26, is the club's top scorer in the league this season with seven goals and West Ham will now be relying on Mexico striker Guillermo Franco, as well as fellow forwards Zavon Hines and the fit-again Alessandro Diamanti, to hit the net over the festive period and into 2010.
Zola has seen confidence return to his side, who have climbed out of the Barclays Premier League relegation zone after losing just one of their last six league matches. And the Italian is backing them to overcome the absence of the talismanic Cole, arguably the team's key player, when title-chasing United visit Upton Park.
“I see this as an opportunity now to find other ways to keep the goals coming, starting from tomorrow,” said Zola
“I think we'll like finding other solutions. And what's encouraging as that in the last few games against the top teams, we've done well and they've been close games.
“I know we're playing Manchester United, but you need to see the positive side of it. They are a great team and the champions, but they're not unbeatable and it's down to us to exploit their weaknesses.”
Cole's injury may increase the pressure on Zola to add to his strikeforce in the January transfer window.
West Ham have been linked with a move for Luca Toni, who has not been a regular starter for Bayern Munich this season, and Zola has expressed his admiration for the tall Italy striker.
“He (Toni) is a player who has got experience, has scored goals and has presence in the box, and he might be good for us,” said the former Italy forward.