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Team News: Ayew, Kouyate, and Noble available.

Injuries and Africa’s Cup of Nations won’t be enough to stop these Hammers

Manchester United v West Ham United - EFL Cup Quarter-Final Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Like a stay of execution, Slaven Bilic’s last minute letter to the Ghana Football Association has allowed Andre Ayew to stay with West Ham until January 4th. Senegal did the same earlier today for Cheikhou Kouyate, making both players available for the clash against Manchester United.

The African Cup of Nations will take both players for at least a month, if not longer, depending on how well their respective nations do in the tournament.

Clearly, excellent news for Hammer fans. Ayew is just starting to find his groove and even found the back of the net against his former club, Swansea. However, that didn’t stop Andre from sending his best wishes to old teammates.

Cheikhou Kouyate’s importance to this squad is unmatched. Many have been calling Kouyate the mid-season MVP for his stalwart defense since shifting from a holding midfielder to a back three, then four. We put Cheikhou up against some of the best center backs in the Premier League this year and the results were a bit surprising. Only Jan Vertonghen cam close to matching the big Senegalese man. When he does leave to represent his nation, he will clearly be missed immensely. But he’s not gone yet!

Just like the captain he is, Mark Noble will not let injury hold him back from this important match to kick of 2017. He is a late fitness test but expected to be on the bench if needed. Noble was forced off the pitch in a clash with Leicester City last week and was doubtful for a return.

Manuel Lanzini and Pedro Obiang will also be available for the match.

Still injured, of course, is Diafra Sakho, James Collins, Alvaro Arbeloa, Arthur Masuaku and Gokhan Tore.