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West Ham could be handed a huge boost this month with defender Kurt Zouma well ahead of schedule in his recovery from injury.

The France international, David Moyes’s big-money summer signing, has been out with a hamstring tendon injury since the Hammers’ victory over his former club Chelsea in early December.

Zouma was initially expected to return at some point in February but now the Frenchman could be available for West Ham’s trip to Manchester United on January 22. The Hammers face Norwich and Leeds in the Premier League before then.

The 27-year-old, who was back working in the gym at the club’s Rush Green training ground just days after his injury, could have been available even earlier were it not for a positive test for coronavirus last week.

Moyes had already lost Angelo Ogbonna to a season-ending ACL injury shortly before Zouma was forced off against London rivals Chelsea, meaning the Hammers have had to operate with Craig Dawson and Issa Diop as a central pairing, while Aaron Cresswell has also been absent since November with a back injury.

West Ham have kept just one Premier League clean sheet since they lost Zouma, during the the 0-0 draw at Burnley in December.

Injuries to his first-choice central defenders have forced Moyes to consider movement in the January transfer window to provide cover. While Zouma’s return may change those plans, senior figures at the London Stadium still feel investment is needed in order to maintain a push for the Premier League’s top four and their progress in the Europa League and FA Cup.

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Neither Dawson or Diop have been overly convincing when paired together and, at 33, there is no telling what condition Ogbonna will return in when he is fit again, meaning Moyes will still consider adding a central defender this month, though the Scot can now be more patient in terms of his targets.

Full-back Vladimir Coufal was absent from the matchday squad for the FA Cup win over Leeds on Sunday, though Moyes is hopeful of having the Czech back for Wednesday’s re-arranged visit of Norwich to the London Stadium.

“It will be close but we hope there is a good chance that he’s ready,” Moyes said on Sunday.

There is still no return date for Cresswell, though sources are hopeful he is close to a return following a long spell out.

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