Andriy Yarmolenko could return to the West Ham squad to face Aston Villa on Sunday for the first time since the Russian invasion of his native Ukraine.
The club initially granted Yarmolenko compassionate leave after the invasion began on February 24, but the 32-year-old returned to training earlier this month.
Hammers boss David Moyes has revealed he was almost part of the club’s plans for the Europa League trip to Sevilla earlier this week.
“Yarmolenko was fit and available to go to Spain, we had him in the squad to go to Spain, but unfortunately he fell ill at the last minute,” Moyes said.
“We included him in the squad, he felt ready to get back to playing, but it was an illness that meant we couldn’t take him.
“I hope he can be back in the team this weekend, but I couldn’t be sure at the moment.”
Moyes said he expected a positive reception for Yarmolenko at the London Stadium if he was involved.
We are all big supporters of the players and we are big supporters of Ukraine. We want the war to end, we want Ukrainians to be happy and free.Moyes David
“Undoubtedly and rightly so. You’ve seen the response from Premier League clubs who have Ukrainian players,” said the Scot.
“We are all big supporters of the players and we are big supporters of Ukraine. We want the war to end, we want Ukrainians to be happy and free.
“We are the same for Yarmolenko, we always think of him and his family because all Ukrainian (players) have family members in the country, be it brothers, sisters, mums, dads, cousins or nieces, it doesn’t matter, it’s possible, I think they all have family members in the country.
Yarmolenko’s last appearance for West Ham in any competition was the FA Cup win over Kidderminster on February 5, and he hasn’t played for them in the Premier League since January 16.
The club will be without midfielder Jarrod Bowen, who suffered a heel injury in last weekend’s loss to Liverpool and missed the Europa League loss to Sevilla on Thursday.
Moyes said: “We missed him against Sevilla, but I have to say we didn’t have Declan Rice against Liverpool. Did we miss him? Yes, but we managed without him and I thought that we got by without Jarrod Bowen in last night’s game in Sevilla.
“But we could do with Jarrod’s goals which were important for us over the last month, so hopefully we get him back.
“It’s a very difficult injury to fully diagnose and that’s probably the delay with it. We hope we can get him closer to fitness, but he won’t be available for this weekend’s game.
Like West Ham, Villa were in action on Thursday night in a Premier League win at Leeds.
“With the players we have and the way we’ve played the last two games, we’re positive. We know our stadium is going to rock. We can beat anyone on our day and we’ll be ready to go and hopefully him, knock out Sevilla and move on to the next round.”
– West Ham United (@WestHam) March 11, 2022
“From that perspective, it kinda equates,” Moyes said.
“(Playing Thursday and Sunday) is something you have to get used to and use your team, which we were able to do at the start.
“What we have now is that we have to get closer to a regular team because games are games to be won. The group stages give you the opportunity to chopper and change a bit.
“Hopefully we showed when the games got thick and fast and a bit more even, that might have suited us.”