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David Moyes willing to move Declan Rice back to help solve West Ham’s defensive crisis

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Moyes is facing a defensive “juggling act” with three of his four senior central defenders likely to miss the remainder of the season.

Angelo Ogbonna has been absent since November with an ACL injury, while Kurt Zouma and Issa Diop have now both suffered ankle injuries with Moyes refusing to put a return date on either of the French defenders.

Rice began his professional career in defence under Slaven Bilic and Moyes before being moved into midfield by Manuel Pellegrini – where he has thrived.

Moyes has considered dropping Rice deeper at times this season but has always been reluctant to do so given just how crucial the England international is in midfield.

However, with Mark Noble and Manuel Lanzini options to partner Tomas Soucek in midfield and alternatives at the back in short supply, the Hammers boss says it might be time to bite the bullet and return Rice to central defence.

“Maybe we’ll have to because maybe we’ve got other midfield players who can do that but we don’t have defenders who can play,” conceded Moyes.

“We have a situation where we have to say that because we have no defenders maybe he’s one who’s done it before. We’ve got midfielders who’ve done it before. That is one of our big dilemmas.

“We’ve got a juggling act to do with what we’ve got to piece it together. Can we find a four at the back, can we find a three? What do we feel could work best for us? We’re in a difficult situation for this game, it really doesn’t feel spot on. There is nothing that feels clear cut for us. We’re still looking.

“We’ll be able to find something but whether it works is a different word. We’ve got to try and make sure that we do so we’re still trying to make sure that we can. We’re really unfortunate at the moment given we’ve got three central defenders out injured.”

Under-23 defender Aje Alese is an option having impressed with the academy this season, but with the Europa League semi-final against Eintracht Frankfurt following Sunday’s visit to Chelsea – the games appear too high pressure to throw a youngster into the mix, though Moyes has considered it.

David Moyes has plenty to ponder ahead of West Ham’s trip to Stamford Bridge

/ AFP via Getty Images

“To bring 23s in now when the games are nearly must win, do or die, is very difficult,” said Moyes. “You don’t see many teams at the end of the season playing their young players unless they’ve got very little to play for.

“But are we looking to the under-23s? Yes we are because the squad is small at the moment and we may have to use some of them so we are keeping an eye on them.”

Chelsea have shipped 11 goals in their last three games at Stamford Bridge, including eight in their last two in the Premier League there.

Moyes is hoping to pile more misery on Thomas Tuchel having beaten the Blues at the London Stadium earlier this season, but will need Michail Antonio fit and firing if he is to do so.

The forward has not scored a League goal since New Year’s Day at Crystal Palace and missed a host of chances against Burnley last weekend and his manager has again told Antonio now is the time to step up.

“His all-round performance has got better in the last month or two, at Lyon he was very good,” said Moyes.

“We can get him to assist and make goals because he is a focal point but ultimately we’re at the business end and whatever your role is in the team, if you are a centre-half or a goalkeeper you have to keep the ball out of the net, and centre-forwards have to get the ball in the net.”

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