February 9, 2017 / 12:33 PM / a year ago

Bilic sweats over Carroll fitness ahead of West Brom visit

REUTERS - West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic said Andy Carroll may miss Saturday’s Premier League clash with West Bromwich Albion as the striker has not trained this week due to a minor groin injury.

Carroll, who was injured from mid-August to December, has helped West Ham recover from a tough start since returning to fitness, scoring four goals in his last four games to help them climb to ninth in the table.

Bilic said the injury Carroll picked up in last weekend’s 3-1 win at Southampton was not big but suggested he may rest the striker given his fitness struggles.

“It is not anything major,” Bilic told a news conference on Thursday. “Andy felt something similar to what he had at Middlesbrough and hopefully he will be OK for Saturday.”

“Players have to train to maintain fitness and it is about finding a balance, especially with a history of injuries. But if there is a niggle it is not a problem to rest, even for a whole week, and with Andy that is the case.”

Defender Aaron Cresswell and midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate are also doubts ahead of the visit of eighth-placed West Brom, with Bilic anticipating a stern test for his side.

“West Brom are a very strong team and hard to beat,” the manager added. “They are great at set pieces and very versatile. It will be a tough game.”

West Ham have risen steadily up the table since the start of December and although the team is currently in the top half of the standings, Bilic insists the focus is still very much on avoiding relegation.

“The first target for us is 40 points and we still have a lot to do to reach it,” said the manager, whose team are currently on 31 points, 11 clear of the drop zone.

West Ham have a two-week break after the West Brom game, and Bilic said the team would fly to Dubai for a bit of warm weather training before their next game against Watford on Feb. 25.

”Since I have been here we have not been away during the season,“ Bilic added. ”We now have a gap and we are going to Dubai.

“We are going there to train, work hard and re-charge the batteries. You have to think about the bigger picture.”

Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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