Sunday 11 December 2016

Slaven Bilic looking forward to his Everton return

Published 29/10/2016 | 12:16

Slaven Bilic takes West Ham to another of his former club's, Everton, on Sunday
Slaven Bilic takes West Ham to another of his former club's, Everton, on Sunday

Slaven Bilic will be on familiar territory when West Ham attempt to put Wednesday's crowd trouble behind them.

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The Hammers on Sunday head to Everton, where boss Bilic played for two seasons after leaving Upton Park in 1997.

The contrast between the old-school charm of Goodison Park and the vast open spaces at West Ham's new London Stadium could not be greater, even if the violent scenes at the EFL Cup game against Chelsea were an unwelcome throwback to the 1980s.

And Bilic admits he remains a fan of Everton's tight ground - and not just because West Ham clinched a dramatic 3-2 win there last season.

"It's a great stadium to play at," he said. "I love the stadium, and not because I played there.

"It's going to be packed, it's a great stadium and also because we have a great memory from last year. Okay, I played there and everything but it's mostly because of the stadium and the crowd is very good there."

Unfortunately for Bilic West Ham will also face a familiar foe in the shape of Romelu Lukaku.

The Belgium striker has scored every time he has played against West Ham, a total of eight goals in as many appearances and a stat that not even Bilic could quite compute.

"They have so many options up front," he added.

"They are a very physical side, they have pace up front. They have Lukaku who, I don't know how many he has scored - eight goals in 10 games against us, or whatever I read yesterday.

"So he is always scoring against us, unfortunately, so that's also going to be interesting.

"It will be a great game. They need points. We need points."

Bilic has another attacking weapon of his own, though, with £20.5million summer signing Andre Ayew finally fit again.

The former Swansea frontman had been sidelined by a thigh injury suffered against Chelsea in the opening game of the season, but made his comeback as a late sub against the same opposition on Wednesday.

"It's great to have him back," said Bilic, who remains without strikers Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho through injury.

"He's been training with the group for a couple of weeks now and came on and did really good against Chelsea. He looked fit and aggressive, so it's great to have him back."

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