Aston Villa goalkeeper Emi Martinez looks certain to face West Ham on Sunday after returning from Argentina following a family emergency involving his father.
Martinez flew back to his homeland after Villa’s Premier League loss at Arsenal to be at his dad’s bedside. He posted a photograph on his Instagram account of himself, brother Ale and father Alberto with their thumbs-up following a successful operation.
It had been reported that the 29-year-old would miss Sunday’s home game against the high-flying Hammers. However, he is now back in England and will train with the rest of the squad on Friday – having done some training at the national team’s headquarters while in Argentina.
Providing an update on his number one ahead of the West Ham clash, Villa boss Dean Smith said: “Contrary to reports, our goalkeeper will be training today. He has had a personal issue and flew back to Argentina but he’s back and due to train today (Friday) so I have no worries about his availability.
“I believe (his father is fine). It’s a personal issue and we will leave that with Emi.”
Having Martinez available is a massive boost for Smith as he looks to halt a Premier League three-game losing run.
“Three games ago we were coming off the back of winning at Old Trafford for the first time in 12 years,” said Smith. “We’ve had two tight matches against Tottenham and Wolves and we probably threw the Wolves game away in the last 10 minutes.
“We had a really poor first half against Arsenal. We changed it at half-time and certainly got better. For me, a pivotal point was the penalty and it shouldn’t have been referred to VAR because it wasn’t clear and obvious.
“So out of the last three games, we’ve had two narrow defeats and one where we didn’t turn up in the first half. We got a response in the second half at Arsenal and we need a response now against West Ham.”
Hammers will be tough test
Villa host a West Ham side riding the crest of a wave. David Moyes’ team are fourth in the table, through to the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup after defeating Manchester City this week, and in control of their Europa League group with three wins from three matches.
“They’re in a really good moment. They’re a very good team with a very good coach. I’m full of respect for David Moyes and how well he’s done at West Ham. He’s got them playing in Europe this season and they’re playing very well,” said Smith.
“I expect a tough game, but it’s one we’re looking forward too. They’ve got a very good squad and a way of playing that suits their players.
“They have a good understanding, a good organisation and good players. When you’ve got those ingredients for a good team, I expected them to be pushing again this season.”